This article was created in partnership with Temple University's capstone journalism course Philadelphia Neighborhoods.
By Ben Griffiths
Taria Dean, owner of T’s Tasty Tater Salad, Inc., was present for the official unveiling of the Center for Culinary Enterprises.
Almost everyone who’s tried Taria Dean’s potato salad has agreed it is delicious.
Every time, Dean, owner of T’s Tasty Tater Salad, Inc., would serve up her potato salad at family events and community functions, the response was always the same. People wanted more. As word continued to spread about her sumptuous spuds, Taria Dean began to envision selling her popular potato salad.
“My thought process at that time was that what Famous Amos did with the cookie, I could do with potato salad,” Dean said. “However, I didn’t have the entrepreneurial skills or the resources to develop the business.”
That all changed about six months ago when Dean met Delilah Winder, the director of the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises. Winder listened to the aspirations of Taria Dean and told her that the dream of selling her potato salad was possible through a program called Philly Food Ventures.
Philly Food Ventures was created in 2010 with the purpose of providing culinary entrepreneurs with technical guidance in operating their business. The program is set to become the business arm of the Center for Culinary Enterprises, a commercial kitchen space that is set to open on South 48th Street between Pine and Spruce streets in West Philadelphia sometime next month. Already small business entrepreneurs like Taria Dean are signing up in the hopes that their homemade recipes have the ingredients of success.
Della Clark, president of The Enterprise Center, laid the groundwork for the Center for Culinary Enterprises to be built.
The CCE’s director, Delilah Winder, embodies this combination of winning recipes and sound business chops. Winder’s talent in the kitchen led her to launch Delilah’s Southern Cuisine Co., which now has four locations. Her cooking has received national acclaim, even garnering a nod from Oprah for “the best” macaroni and cheese. Although her steady hand will be guiding the CCE into the future, if not for the determination of Enterprise Center President Della Clark and the insistence of a pound cake baker from Cleveland, the Center for Culinary Enterprises may never have gotten off the ground.
Clark said the process of discovering whether it was feasible to open up a food incubator in Philadelphia, began back in 2003. Clark is the president of The Enterprise Center, a West Philadelphia-based company that helps small businesses with access to capital and development. Clark recognized the need for a multi-use commercial kitchen space, but she did not know whether investors would be interested.
Zana Billue was running a one-woman, mail-order pound cake operation in Cleveland when she first heard about kitchen incubators. Before she moved to Philadelphia, she contacted Clark and asked her about starting one.
“We’re not there yet,” Clark told her. “We know there is a need, but we’re not there yet.”
After Billue relocated to Philadelphia, she again asked Clark and received a similar response. However, this time Clark suggested that they conduct a feasibility study to determine if the need was strong enough to attract funding. The results were positive and the plans to overhaul a 13,000-square-foot, abandoned grocery store at the eventual price tag of $6 million slowly came to fruition.
“Unfortunately the economy kept us from moving as fast as we wanted to move, but here we are today,” said Billue.
Now, instead of having to rent a midnight slot from a local bakery, Billue will have 24-hour access to the center’s four commercial kitchens, as well as its ample freezer and dry food space for an affordable $20-$25 an hour.
“It is certainly cheaper to prepare food out of your home, but the problem with preparing food out of your home is that it doesn’t meet code,” said Clark. “We’re trying to give you a place were you can produce a quality product with a high standard that your customers will be pleased with.”