Shared kitchen works for Midwest Kitchen
by BRIAN NADIG
A shared kitchen concept that opened in 2010 at 5740 N. Milwaukee Ave. has evolved in recent years to include pop-up restaurants and a pickup window where cookies and coffee are sold daily to passers-by on the sidewalk.
A Midwest Kitchen operates out of a 2,000-square-foot storefront that was once part of the Gladstone Park Bakery at 5744 N. Milwaukee Ave., which has remained vacant since it closed about 10 years ago. At one time the storefront was used for customers picking up cakes, as the bakery was known for its cake decorations.
The storefront is no longer part of the bakery building, as a door connecting the two buildings has been sealed off. The bakery building was put up for sale last spring.
A Midwest Kitchen owner Chris Cox operates Butter Bella, whose cookies are sold at Whole Foods, inside the storefront. He also leases space to other baking companies, which in some instances may rent the space for only a few months.
Some of the tenants have included food truck businesses and bakeries that sell goods at farmers’ markets. In Chicago, baked goods sold at markets need to be produced at a commercially licensed bakery, and under the shared kitchen classification, businesses save about half of their licensing fees compared to if they were to have their own building, according to Chris Cox.
“The (shared kitchen) ordinance supports an emerging creative food industry in Chicago. Shared kitchens serve as incubators for food businesses that do not have the start-up capital to invest in a commercial kitchen,” former mayor Richard M. Daley said in 2011.
Cox said that the storefront came with a few items that had been left behind from the Gladstone Park Bakery, including custom-made carts with cookie tray racks. He said that a local welder would make equipment specially designed for the bakery.
Plans call for an outdoor seating area in front of A Midwest Kitchen next year. While customers are not allowed inside where the baking is done, they order their food from a pickup window in the front.
In addition, A Midwest Kitchen is hosting a series of cultural pop-up food events, including a recent evening where Thai food was available for sale from the pickup window. Famous chefs also are being invited to temporally showcase their cuisine at the shared kitchen.
Pastry chef and Kendall College instructor Leila Manoochehry of LeilaLove bakery will present “A Taste of Paris,” featuring macarons, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17.
More information on the shared kitchen is available at amidwestki tchen.com.