The Hill Arts District in Evanston, just west of where Noyes Street and Green Bay Road intersect, houses unique lofts and live-work spaces. Now We’re Cookin’ resides on the site of a former dairy. Described as a multi-faceted culinary service center, it ranks as one Evanston’s best kept secrets and is home to the city’s only Food Business Incubator for start-up food businesses.
According to Nell Funk, Chef and Owner, Now We’re Cookin’ provides services in a few different realms: a shared kitchen space for caterers, chefs and others who need the size and capabilities of a commercial kitchen; a facility for monthly seminars on Introduction to Entrepreneurship and quarterly Food Business 101 courses, chef training and classes for non-chefs; a corporate meeting space for presentations and team building exercises; a private event space for parties and events; a high-end, chef’s kitchen for filming food-related events and cooking shows; and private consulting for food-related companies.
Nell’s favorite part of the business is running the Incubator. When a person or team is ready to launch a food business, they apply to join the Incubator; once enrolled, each pairs with an experienced mentor and is given access to a range of services and industry connections. One of the bonuses of the Incubator relationship is exposure to strategy sessions with business students through a special affiliation with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, the Levy Entrepreneurial Institute and the School’s Food and Agribusiness Club.
I attended one of these presentations in February and watched teams of students–many with prior food experience–map out creative and innovative ideas to address specific issues. The burgeoning food business clients included Bakers Man Chicago (specialty baked cookies and baked goods), Prohibition Spice Co. (sausage spice blends and rubs) and D-ology (allergy-free and gluten-free baked goods). Each business appreciated the feedback and the students appreciated the chance to offer strategic advice to food entrepreneurs. Several team members expressed interest in continuing to work with ‘their’ business; maybe that new involvement is just what’s needed to help both parties meet their respective goals.
Preparing food is the most basic form of creativity. We all eat. What other art form involves all five of our senses? If you are passionate about wanting to start your own food business, or just want to learn more to see if you have what it takes, it’s worth a call to Now We’re Cookin’. Located at 1601 Payne Street, Unit C, in Evanston or call 847-570-4140.