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This article was published 2/5/2015 (843 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It's a little ironic that the woman who now boasts one of the biggest, swankiest commercial kitchens in Winnipeg also has one of the smallest home kitchens in the city.
Meet Sheila Bennett, owner and founder of Kitchen Sync, a new commercial kitchen that could be opening as soon as Monday -- she's waiting for her occupancy permit -- in the lower level of a 110-year-old heritage building on Donald Street.
The fledgling entrepreneur spared no expense in equipping her commercial kitchen, which she'll rent to budding food entrepreneurs, caterers, private chefs -- anyone who needs a fully licensed commercial kitchen to prepare or test food for their businesses, or just needs a facility until they're big enough to build their own commercial kitchen.
Bennett's first customer -- Sweet C Bakery owner Cori Poom, is gushing in her praise of the kitchen, which she and her husband, Jeffrey, plan to lease for the long term while they grow their three-year-old, Internet-based bakery/catering business.
"She's got everything. I was so impressed with what she put into that kitchen, from the soup kettle to the coffee makers to every kind of oven imaginable. And the sunlight that comes in there, it's just beautiful," Poom said. "I'm just so excited for June 1 to come when I can move into my new kitchen. I'll move in there and just start working magic."
Now listen to Bennett's description of the kitchen in her own home.
"I have the smallest kitchen in the world at home," she admitted with a laugh. "My prep space is like this (about one metre long) and I share it with my expresso maker. If I do a dinner, I have to do everything in shifts, and there's no room for a dishwasher. It's just hilarious."
Bennett, who was the longtime Manitoba rep for a Vancouver wine importer before quitting to launch Kitchen Sync, got the idea of opening a rental kitchen about two years ago after reading about a similar venture in a Vancouver newspaper.
She began researching what kind of equipment she would need, and got some great advice from the manager of the Knox Community Kitchen, another downtown commercial kitchen that operates out of Knox United Church. She also took a self-employment course through the downtown YM/YWCA that showed her how to draw up a business plan and how to set up and operate a business.
Bennett wouldn't say how much money she spent on equipment in the 4,000-square-foot space, which also includes a large, fully licenced, dining-room and special events area.
But she did reveal the 45-litre soup kettle alone cost $15,000. Then there are the two fryers, the two flat-top grills, the two convection ovens, the two large commercial refrigerators, a walk-in cooler, three 2.5-metre-long prepping stations and just about every kind of smaller kitchen appliance you can imagine.
Bennett said thankfully, the landlord helped out with a lot of the tenant improvements to the space, which boasts lots of large windows, restaurant-style lighting and architectural features such as exposed stone walls and timber posts and beams.
Her landlord is Lola Construction Management Inc. owner Karl Loepp, who bought the Bell Block a few years ago and converted the former warehouse into a mixed-use complex with retail/commercial space on the main and lower levels, and 34 rental apartments on the other five floors.
Bennett said she was adamant her kitchen be located downtown, where it would be accessible to clients from all over the city.
"And I strongly believe in what they are doing down here with Longboat (Development Corp.), the Chipmans (who own Longboat) and all of that," she added. "Things are happening."
She said she plans to rent out the dining area, which she furnished with tables, chairs, glassware, plates and cutlery from a restaurant that went out of business, for events such as private and corporate dinners, kitchen parties, pop-up dinners, and cooking classes. She envisions that becoming a big part of the overall business.
Rental rates for the kitchen are $18 to $28 an hour, depending on the time of day and how many hours it's leased. The more a client uses it, the cheaper the rate.
"If they're here on a regular basis, that just makes my life easier," she said. "Ideally, if I can get 10 or 12 regulars in here who work well together, that's the goal."
She's also looking forward to working with her clients and helping them grow their businesses.
"I want to be able to give back, not just take from people."