COOK­ING UP SOME­THING GOOD

The Hatch­ery, a $34 mil­lion food/bev­er­age in­cu­ba­tor, opens in East Garfield Park

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­[email protected]­times.com | @fspiel­man

Food and bev­er­age en­trepreneurs like those who have wooed in­vestors on the hit TV show “Shark Tank” will now have the shared space to pur­sue their dreams in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neigh­bor­hood.

And celebrity chef Rick Bay­less will make it even bet­ter by of­fer­ing a train­ing pro­gram for as­pir­ing chefs.

A $34 mil­lion food and bev­er­age in­cu­ba­tor known as “The Hatch­ery” — with shared kitchens, stor­age and of­fice space for roughly 100 star­tups — opened Thurs­day on what once was a va­cant lot at Lake and Kedzie, near the Kedzie sta­tion on the CTA’s Green Line.

The 67,000-square­foot fa­cil­ity is a part­ner­ship be­tween Ac­cion and the In­dus­trial Coun­cil of Near­west Chicago.

It’s equipped with 56 pri­vate food-grade kitchens, five shared kitchen bays, dry-cold stor­age and load­ing docks for dis­tri­bu­tion and food trucks.

There’s also of­fice space and a “full suite of busi­ness in­cu­ba­tion ser­vices” to sup­port small-busi­ness owners and host net­work­ing events and classes.

That’s where Bay­less’ Hatch­ery-based “Culi­nary Core In­sti­tute” comes in.

It will in­clude an “eight-week culi­nary­in­tense train­ing” pro­gram for as­pir­ing young chefs that ends in a month­long in­tern­ship at “one of our city’s world-class restau­rants,” Bay­less said.

“It’s our goal to train 80 stu­dents a year and place ev­ery sin­gle grad­u­ate into a job in Chicago’s restau­rant in­dus­try,” Bay­less said.

The goal is to bridge the gap be­tween a stag­ger­ing 81 per­cent un­em­ploy­ment rate in parts of the West Side among young peo­ple ages 18-24 and the “in­cred­i­ble need” for skilled la­bor in Chicago restau­rants, he said.

Bay­less al­most al­ways bub­bles over with en­thu­si­asm when he talks about the restau­rant in­dus­try he loves. But he felt that way, and then some, when he walked through the Hatch­ery.

“I am, first and fore­most, an en­tre­pre­neur. And I have to say that walk­ing through the shared kitchen over here is one of the most ex­cit­ing things that I’ve done in a re­ally, re­ally long time be­cause I see so much hope. And there is noth­ing more ex­cit­ing than to be sur­rounded by peo­ple who are hope­ful,” Bay­less said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel noted that The Hatch­ery is Chicago’s only busi­ness in­cu­ba­tor out­side the down­town area and the first in a food in­dus­try he said is “one of the most dy­namic parts of our econ­omy.”

Two years ago, Bon Ap­petit mag­a­zine called Chicago the best restau­rant city in Amer­ica.

“I have no doubt, within less than a year, that the prod­ucts that are be­ing de­vel­oped here we will see in shelves in gro­cery stores. We will see in restau­rants in the city. And we will see en­trepreneurs that take their dreams from their kitchen into the restau­rants and re­tail parts of the city. There’s no doubt about it,” Emanuel said.

Dur­ing Emanuel’s ten­ure, Chicago has be­come a mag­net for food com­pany head­quar­ters. Two of those com­pa­nies — Con­a­gra and Kel­logg — are cor­po­rate partners of The Hatch­ery.

“They’re not do­ing it as a char­ity. They’re not do­ing it as a one-time. They’re in­vest­ing be­cause they know their bot­tom line de­pends on finding the next, next thing right here. It’s gonna come out of Hatch­ery,” Emanuel said.

“Think about this: RX Bar. Kel­logg bought ’em. $600 mil­lion. El­e­ments on ‘Shark Tank.’ Farmer’s Fridge, T-Squares, Half-Acre all came out of shared kitchens.” Those prod­ucts started in “spa­ces likes this,” Emanuel said, and with “en­trepreneurs who had vi­sions, ideas.”

Plans for the Hatch­ery were an­nounced in July 2017, and al­though it was a la­bor of love for many, it wasn’t easy to put to­gether.

It re­quired a patch­work quilt of city sup­port that in­cluded: a $7 mil­lion tax in­cre­ment fi­nanc­ing (TIF) sub­sidy; the sale of a dozen va­cant parcels val­ued at $150,000 for $1; and $1.75 mil­lion in New Mar­ket Tax Cred­its. The city’s 2.6 acres were com­bined with nine other de­vel­oper-owned parcels.

An­other $8.5 mil­lion in New Mar­ket Tax Cred­its were pro­vided by PNC Bank, the Com­mu­nity Rein­vest­ment Fund and oth­ers. Debt fi­nanc­ing pro­vided, in part, by PNC Bank and MB Fi­nan­cial filled in the gaps.

“So many peo­ple … could have said, ‘No. It’s too risky. Not now. Not here.’ That didn’t hap­pen. All of ’em said, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’ Be­cause that’s what this is about. … It’s about giv­ing peo­ple a shot,” said Steve DeBretto, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of ICNC.

WIGHT & CO. REN­DER­ING; FACE­BOOK/CHICAGO MAYOR'S OF­FICE

ABOVE: The Hatch­ery, a food and bev­er­age busi­ness in­cu­ba­tor with shared kitchens, stor­age and of­fice space for roughly 100 star­tups, opened Thurs­day on what had been a va­cant lot near the Kedzie Green Line sta­tion. LEFT: Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) tours the fa­cil­i­ties.

Rick Bay­less

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