Andrea Abedi and Hilary Kilpatric intend to redefine the food scene with The Kitchen Table Santa Fe, a commercial kitchen in five rooms at the former Desert Academy.
They see future potential to expand into more rooms and possibly occupy the whole campus at 313 Camino Alire.
For now, the rooms still look like abandoned classrooms and the academy’s old cafeteria kitchen minus any appliances. By fall, they expect to have The Kitchen Table fully outfitted for aspiring food entrepreneurs.
The only other known commercial kitchen in town is in the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.
“This will put the Santa Fe food scene on the map,” Kilpatric said.
Abedi is owner and chef of The Temptress and once was co-owner of Rasa Juice Bar/Ayurveda. Kilpatric has offered business development assistance as far as Laos and Guatemala. As business partners, Abedi handles the kitchen and Kilpatric the business side.
Prospective clients Nacha Mendez and Hannah Levbarg are waiting for The Kitchen Table to open.
Mendez is better known as the state’s reigning diva of Latin music, as many refer to her, but she also has a passion for cooking.
“Because of COVID, I’m not so reigning anymore anywhere,” Mendez said. “I have been a chef for a while in the early ’80s in New York City, a trendy chile place, a Mexican place. I thought I would do vegan, gluten-free burritos. I will also be able to make specialty salsas and beer spices. I will deliver to people.”
Levbarg is an associate broker at Berkshire Hathaway but would rather trade commissions in a booming real estate market for the crises of the food preparation world.
She does not know yet what she will do when The Kitchen Table opens, but it will be 100 percent plant based and vegan, potentially packaged meals sold through partner markets.
“The flexibility [makes] it really accessible for people who need to develop or test an idea without a large amount of commitment,” Levbarg said. “It keeps costs low.”
Mendez was won over by the fact The Kitchen Table is in her neighborhood and will likely be open 3 a.m. to midnight.
“What I like about it is you get the key to go in at any time,” she said. “They will help you get started, how to get your business going.”
Abedi said The Kitchen Table will have a guide for clients on how to get food certification, permits and insurance.
John Vollertsen, who operates the cooking school at Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe, and David Sellers, program director and executive chef at Street Food Institute in Albuquerque and former executive chef at Santacafé, are not aware of any other commercial kitchens in Santa Fe other than the convention center.
“I think Santa Fe has needed that, for sure,” Sellers said. “It is an essential thing to have a springboard like that. It’s more about giving small business a hand up.”
Minerva Paez, owner of Casa Chimayo, said she is converting her kitchen into a shared kitchen space with Tawny Confections, the first client to sign on, and Paez is looking for one or two more clients. She expects to have the kitchen ready in a month or two.
The Kitchen Table would be a resource for caterers, food truck operators, restaurant chefs who want to experiment and private chefs. Food truck operators are supposed to do certain food preparation in commercial kitchens.
Abedi has been toying with the commercial kitchen idea for 3½ years, primarily to satisfy her needs. She does most of her private chef cooking in clients’ homes, at the Mixing Bowl in Albuquerque or at the Taos County Economic Development Corporation’s community kitchen. Abedi also produced meals for “Dinner and a Movie” events at Jean Cocteau Cinema and worked for seven years for legendary Chicago chef Charlie Trotter.
Abedi and Kilpatric know each other from their days as students at Santa Fe High School. In the meantime, Kilpatric has done a three-year Peace Corps stint in Guatemala and spent two years in Laos building an online store for women artisans.
They teamed up in May to create The Kitchen Table, originally called Dragonstone Community Commercial Kitchen. They got a special-use permit Jan. 19 from the city to move ahead at the former school.
“There are so many food artisans in Santa Fe,” Abedi said. “It’s been hard on them to have to go to Albuquerque or Taos.”
“This is a way to be legitimate and meet all the Health Department standards,” Kilpatric said. “This is a space for food [entrepreneurs] to create their unique foods around the world.”
The 700-square-foot kitchen will be outfitted with three convection ovens, a tilt skillet, a steam kettle, a commercial mixer, a fryer, a three-compartment sink, a produce sink, an industrial blast chiller and a stainless steel prep table.
“One day, we’d like to have our own farm on the premises and be a one-stop shop,” Kilpatric said.
In a separate 600-square-foot room, they will have an 18-by-8-foot CoolBot walk-in refrigerator and a 12-by-5-foot Arctic walk-in freezer. Another 350-square-foot room will have a cold kitchen. A 580-square-foot storage room will allow clients to store dry goods on the premises. There will also be a 400-square-foot locker room for clients to keep other things.
Squash Blossom CSA will also have a room, and Kitchen Table clients will have access to CSA products, Kilpatric said.
“We are going for state-of-the-art, where people feel comfortable and we can inspire creativity,” Kilpatric said.