Kitchen Collective is a shared kitchen for gastronomic entrepreneurs founded by Marie Vedel and Mia Maja in 2014.
Kitchen Collective grew out of ideas and visions for a new food culture, we wanted to see in Copenhagen. In 2013, we began to reflect about what was missing in the gastronomic landscape in Copenhagen. At that point, when you looked at the food culture in European metropolises such as London, Paris and Berlin it was very different from the one we saw in Denmark. These metropolises had food courts, pop-up kitchens, street kitchens, and an abundance of convenience food products. This culinary variety wasn’t that common in the gastronomic landscape of Copenhagen just two years ago.
We wanted to change this reality – and fortunately, we were not alone.
At this point, we began to see new market initiatives such as Copenhagen Street Food, music festivals working with different street food concepts, and the municipality of Copenhagen starting to ease the regulations for street vendors with the purpose of getting more different food on the streets.
Of course we acknowledged these initiatives, but we also believed that with these initiatives alone, we would just see already established producers selling food in new places, because the entry barriers to the gastronomic field were very high.
Therefore, we took the totally opposite approach – we started looking at the individuals, who were about to become new producers within this gastronomic landscape.
We believe that culinary variety on the Danish gastronomic scene is not that common, because culinary entrepreneurs face very high establishment costs, which is a major barrier to enter this field.
Cooking and selling food require a professional kitchen certified by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. Whether rented or bought, this kind of kitchen involves high start-up costs plus working capital, which prevents minor and/or new culinary entrepreneurs from testing ideas and productions on a smaller scale.
What we realized is that when you are a food related start-up and you want to test whether you have a market for your food product, you need a kitchen, and such a kitchen must be certified. This involves high start-up and operation costs. How would you know, if there would be enough revenues to cover the costs of the kitchen, when you need the kitchen before you know if there is a market?
So from the producers’ side, there was an actual problem, an actual need, and an actual barrier to enter the gastronomic field and create these new eating-places that people wanted. In order to create a new food culture, we found it necessary to solve this problem first.
We realized that we must provide new food producers with some production facilities. For most culinary start-ups, there is no need for a kitchen full time, which in turn makes it possible for culinary entrepreneurs to share a kitchen. Therefore, we created Kitchen Collective – a kitchen that can be shared by many culinary entrepreneurs. As they are entrepreneurs in our kitchen, we just call them kitcheneurs.
Kitchen Collective enables kitcheneurs to build up their business by offering them a place to try out ideas and productions in certified facilities. This way our kitchen allows for smaller food productions to be tested on the market. This means that Kitchen Collective functions as sort of a lab or an incubator. Kitcheneurs pay for the time they use in kitchen, which means that they only have costs when they need to produce.
We got the idea in 2013, and we officially opened in January 2015 at Aalborg University in Copenhagen. Quite early in our development process, we got in contact with Aalborg University, which had the right facilities for Kitchen Collective. Aalborg University has played an extremely important role for the realization of Kitchen Collective and we are very happy with this collaboration. We have our first kitchen at the university, and we also have a close collaboration with the programme Integrated Food Studies, where students and kitcheneurs can draw benefits from each other’s knowledge, ideas and projects. Collaborating with the university has been extremely important for us in order to legitimize what we were doing. In the beginning, no one understood our idea and what we were doing.
Last year, we have had more than 42 kitcheneurs through our kitchen. There is no longer any doubt that the need for a shareable kitchen will just keep growing.
The kitcheneurs are divided into three different categories mainly. We have kitcheneurs that work with developing new convenience products, we have kitcheneurs that work alternative forms of catering, and we have kitcheneurs that work with street food.
In the category of convenience products, Aoman is a good example. They started in the kitchen with an idea on juices. We have followed them right from the beginning; at initial idea stage, their product development, the organic certification and, lastly, getting the stamps needed in order to reach the retail market. Today, you can actually find the juices in retail stores.
Bite Me Crew is a very good example of some of our kitcheneurs that work with alternative forms of catering. Bite Me Crew call themselves a social food lab and focus very much on the interaction between people in the eating situation. Below is a picture from an event at the quay in front of Kitchen Collective in the summer. It is a collective dinner, where Bite Me Crew got together with our kitcheneur, Mad ingeniøren, and hosted a longtable dinner. The title of the dinner was ‘You’ll never eat, cook, or drink alone”. We had more than 250 visitors that day.
In the street food category, MaoBao is worth mentioning. They wanted to be a new street food vendor, and with their catchy name, they became really popular in no time. They have been selling at different street food markets during this summer, and now they just opened their own restaurant. The guys behind are a good example of how to start up a business by just developing yourself on the market. Many have a dream about opening a restaurant, but it is very expensive to start from scratch, which makes it impossible for a lot of people. Like many others, MaoBao couldn’t afford a kitchen, so they started using Kitchen Collective. Like others, they couldn’t afford a shop or a food truck, so instead they got a simple set-up, from where they could sell their products at markets. There are only few markets during wintertime, and therefore, they needed to find a new place to sell from, in order to keep the business going. They still couldn’t afford their own restaurant, but instead they teamed up with someone who had just opened a cocktail bar, and now they are selling food there every Thursday to Sunday, and their rent is just a percentage of what they are selling.
We often experience that people perceive Kitchen Collective as an innovation. Is Kitchen Collective an innovation or maybe a social innovation? We don’t know. If we perceive Kitchen Collective’s lifetime as a clock with 60 minutes, it was only the first 5 minutes, where we developed an innovation. Since we got the idea, it has been nothing else but hard work and also a lot of hard practical work. Most days, we don’t see ourselves as people advancing a new food culture in Copenhagen. We just see ourselves as caretakers.
But we know that the job as caretakers actually makes a difference on the market, because we
Acknowledged a problem
Saw a need in the market
And created a solution – a sustainable solution – not only for the benefit of individuals, but for the benefit for a larger group in society.
Kitchen Collective started with an idea that in no time turned bigger than ourselves, as the demand for such kitchen was huge. We do our best every day to run a shareable kitchen, which definitely has its challenges, but to follow the kitcheneurs’ way to the market is very rewarding, and we are exited about the future.