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Lexicon of Sustainability

Watchword: Kitchen Incubators

Watchword: Kitchen Incubators
To draw attention to the best and brightest ideas in sustainability, the Lexicon of Sustainability's Food List project defines the words that are integral to a healthy, transparent, and accountable food system. Each week, we explore a new word through artwork, films, recipes, and written works. See all Food List words here. 

Kitchen Incubators: From east coast to west coast, kitchen incubators are popping up to bring support and stimulation to local food entrepreneurs. A true incubator kitchen does not simply offer shared commercial kitchen space, but also an engine for entrance into the marketplace and inspiration for economic and operational self-sufficiency. It identifies barriers to entry, whether they be capital, gendered, racial or language-based, reduces the risks associated, and creates a platform from which truly talented entrepreneurs can grow and thrive.

Incubator kitchens create equal opportunity in an industry loaded with barriers to entry. They are a city’s answer to restrictions on capital, to the epidemic of missed opportunity for resource-poor entrepreneurs, and community-building spaces for aspirations.

Title: Kitchen Incubator
Location: La Cocina, Mission District of San Francisco, CA
Featuring: Christina, Azalina, Veronica, and Alicia, La Cocina Entrepreneurs

Kitchen incubators help entrepreneurs launch, grow, and formalize food businesses, which provide real asset generation for their families. La Cocina, “the kitchen” in Spanish, provides affordable commercial kitchen space and technical assistance to low-income and immigrant women entrepreneurs growing their own food business.

La Cocina supplies space from which to launch dreams, as well as a vibrant community of fellow entrepreneurs. They believe everyone has the talent and capacity to build a successful food business. La Cocina is located in San Francisco’s Mission District, an ethnically diverse and economically vulnerable neighborhood. Food lies at the heart of this community, and you don’t have to look far to find hidden entrepreneurs in kitchens at many homes.

Short film: "Union Kitchen" by Real Food Media Contest

Create. Contribute. Prosper. This is the foundation on which Union Kitchen was built. As a “megaphone” kitchen incubator for small businesses, Union Kitchen provides low-cost, low-risk, full-service kitchen for local businesses to grow. At the base, Union Kitchen prides itself as a hub for a thriving local culture to blossom and expand. (Plus pies.)

Three things you can do to support culinary entrepreneurs

Aspiring entrepreneurs bring innovation and creativity into our culinary experiences. Maybe these chefs are re-introducing a tradition and preserving culture, or taking a local, ethical spin on some of our favorite meals. Each one of these entrepreneurs is playing their part in building and maintaining our local food system with resilience.

Here are some ways you can support your culinary community:

1. Connect with your community, share, and learn where your closest kitchen incubator and community kitchen are through the source Culinary Incubator! You never know who is cooking up a great idea and needs a little motivation and support!
2. Aspiring food entrepreneur? Take your favorite recipe and use ReciPal to manage the costs, ingredients, and nutritional facts.
3. Take a look at your family tree. What are some of your cultural recipes? Share them with your friends and neighbors to explore your heritage.

For the past three years, the Lexicon of Sustainability has sought out the foremost practitioners of sustainability in food and farming to gain their insights and experiences on this important subject. What began as a photography project to spread their knowledge has grown to include short films, study guides, traveling shows, a book, and a website where people can add their own terms to this ever-evolving lexicon. See more at

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