Truckee's first commercial, co-working space increases camaraderie among area chefs.
WRITTEN BY NATASHA BOURLIN
PHOTOS BY SHAUN HUNTER
Office manager Andrea Barrow slices cabbage in the commercial kitchen at Kitchen Collab
It was time. Despite being located in an area teeming with culinary talent, until recently, many Tahoe-area chefs struggled to find a place for food production. For food educators, caterers, and food producers, space to prepare items for events, food trucks, retail sales, or private parties in the area was limited and pricey — that is, until culinarian Alex Tolger from Portland, Ore., brought a five-year vision to life.
Professional chef and entrepreneur Tolger relocated to Truckee in 2010, then worked at two Truckee hot spots, Drunken Monkey and FiftyFifty Brewing Co., where he began conceptualizing his European-style street-food truck, MOGROG Rotisserie. Yet he struggled to find a local place where he could prep his dishes.
Five years of permitting, equipment purchasing, and design later, and with the assistance of two fellow industry pros — Andrea Barrow and Katie Livingstone, whom he recruited as his office and kitchen manager, respectively — Kitchen Collab was born in 2018.
Kitchen Collab founder/director Alex Tolger and Barrow prepare kimchi for an upcoming event
Build it and they will come
An unassuming building in Truckee now houses this commercial commissary kitchen, shared workspace, and culinary incubator created by the trio for the local food community. Tolger and his team’s mission is to elevate, strengthen, facilitate, and grow the local culinary economy by supporting local entrepreneurs.
“We’re trying to transform the area food culture,” Tolger says. “We want to reduce barriers of entry for people in the food industry and support them in that. We’re going for slow growth to maintain the culture we wanted to create and make all of our members happy.”
Membership based and independently owned, Kitchen Collab is available to chefs 24/7. Through an integrated, digital login system, members can schedule kitchen time online and know exactly who else will be sharing the space with them. Kitchen Collab was structured to encourage sampling, sharing, and regional food usage to build camaraderie among users and make food preparation more efficient for chefs.
Word has spread
The collab is nearly halfway to its maximum capacity of 22 members-only five at a time are able to use the 11 top-of-the-line kitchen suites to avoid congestion — just a year after opening. The facility also provides single-use opportunities for chefs visiting the area for events and food prep space for weddings or gatherings.
Members enjoy use of shared basics, including sugar, salt, and pepper, as well as baking-specific stations, plus premier equipment such as a blast freezer that also can keep dishes at a wide range of specified temperatures, and a costly Combi convection oven that also serves as a steamer.
As Tolger says, “I picked every toy I wanted to play with.”
Members also can order wholesale products through the collab and take advantage of its rental fleet of flatware, wine glasses, and more. An in-house team of cleaning stewards, plus an umbrella permit and the collab’s relationships with surrounding counties take those worries off chefs’ plates, too.
Also a food-truck-friendly space, the collab’s two rolling garage doors offer access to a pass-through area replete with an in-ground grease trap, so trucks can easily get cleaned and stocked.
Kitchen Collab offers an intimate events space/tasting room inside its shared kitchen facility building
Kitchen Collab boasts two event spaces laden with refined rustic, industrial décor. In one, a table for 10 is ideal for private tastings, educational events, or smaller meals. In the other, a total of 150 people can enjoy celebrations while standing, or 50 seated.
Nonprofits have benefitted from fundraising events held there, and the venue also hosts its own culinary festivities, such as a recent whiskey-pairing dinner collaboration with Truckee’s Old Trestle Distillery. At the event, Tolger prepared six grain-focused courses that complemented the distillery’s spirits, and the first bottle distilled and bottled in Truckee in 100 years was opened.
During the holiday season, member chefs prepare à la carte dishes people can pre-order online, pick up during set hours, and take home for their own gatherings. Specialties include vegan and themed options, wheat-free items, and appetizers.
Natasha Bourlin is a freelance writer and strong believer in chef camaraderie and local culinary innovations.
11357 Deerfield Drive, Ste. C, Truckee
530-414-9724 • Kitchencollab.co