Local groups tackling issue of limited kitchen space in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

Local groups tackling issue of limited kitchen space in Steamboat Springs

Ken Nelson, left, and Darrel Philmon scoop the pulp out of citrus shells at Steamboat's Fixins Kitchen in 2011. As some businesses report a hard time finding kitchen space here, some local organizations are working to determine the supply and demand of commercial kitchen space in Steamboat.

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Are you a restaurant owner who would consider renting out commercial kitchen space or a local food producer who is looking for that type of space? Contact Tracy Barnett at 970-846-1800 or tracy@mainstreetsteamboat.com.

— One of the key ingredients the Lekarczyk family needs to keep growing their local granola business has been hard to find here in Steamboat Springs.

"It’s difficult to find commercial kitchen space to use," Diane Lekarczyk said as she talked about how Granola Gold’s baking operations have gone from kitchen to kitchen since it was founded here in 2011. "Our hands have been a little bit tied trying to find who might have a space for us. It’s almost like it has to be a well-kept secret."

The family recently was baking their granola products at a kitchen here in Steamboat and praised the person who made it available, but they ultimately determined the space "just wasn’t their style."

Because other kitchen space is limited, the Lekarczyks now are baking outside Steamboat in Routt County.

The family hopes to return the baking operation closer to home.

The quest to find commercial kitchen space is so competitive here in the Yampa Valley, some business owners like the Lekarczyks are hesitant to reveal the location of the kitchens they’ve been fortunate to find for fear others will.

“Finding a facility has been our biggest challenge,” Lekarczyk said.

Local food advocates see the lack of commercial kitchen and storage space here as a hindrance to the industry and economic development.

Today, representatives from Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, the Community Agriculture Alliance, the city of Steamboat Springs, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and some local food producers have joined forces to discuss the apparent lack of rentable commercial kitchen space.

The groups first want to know how many restaurants and businesses with commercial kitchens would be open to renting them out and what the demand for the kitchen space is.

Some restaurants here already are renting out their kitchens on a limited basis, but the groups want to get a better gauge of the supply and demand.

"We don’t know if any of the other restaurants have considered the idea of sharing their kitchens, especially the ones that are only working in a certain part of the day," Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said. "If they’re only doing dinner or breakfast and lunch, then there might be a part of the day they might be willing to rent out their kitchen."

While Colorado’s recent Cottage Foods Act allowed for the baking of some more products in home kitchens, several local food producers still are required to use a commercial kitchen for their products for health and safety reasons.

For example, Mainstreet points out that local cook Dean Martin has to make his Asian barbecue sauce at a local commercial kitchen.

Barnett said that in her leadership role at the Farmers Market, she has received many phone calls from people who are interested in making foods that would require the use of a certified commercial kitchen.

"People are looking for possibilities closer to home," she said.

Michele Meyer, local food and product coordinator for Community Agriculture Alliance, said the discussions about kitchens are just one piece of a broader effort to support the local food industry.

"We’re happy to be a part of this group," she said. "We’re really trying to be that representative and that leader for the local food producers."

She said the issue is more complex than just the commercial kitchen space.

Even if the producers have that space, they still need a place to store their food and then a method to get it to consumers from there.

The talks about kitchen space are being led by Mainstreet’s economic restructuring committee.

To be part of the conversation, contact Barnett at 970-846-1800 or tracy@mainstreetsteamboat.com.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10