The owners of a small but growing catering business packed their truck full of Costco produce and headed toward a commercial kitchen space rental in Laguna Beach.
The goal: to prepare 200 dinners.
But once they got to the space, Newport Beach residents Shelby Coffman and Christie Frazier found the doors padlocked. The owner, who was in Las Vegas, had forgotten to leave a key.
"All we were to them was additional income," Coffman said of that day three years ago. "We told ourselves, 'never again.' There had to be a simpler way to do this."
An idea for a business was born in their frustration. The longtime friends decided to build a kitchen space that small catering companies, specialty food producers and personal chefs like them could use whenever they wanted.
The Hood Kitchen, which opened earlier this year on Clinton Street in Costa Mesa, features 5,400 square feet of rentable multifunctional kitchen space.
The open floor plan includes six fully equipped kitchens, five walk-in coolers, nine prep stations, a shipping and loading room and a studio space for filming, demonstrations and classes.
Chef Ryan Wagner, who teaches culinary arts at the Art Institute of Orange County in Santa Ana, uses The Hood to host cooking classes and film instructional videos for his web series, AskaChef.tv.
"I've worked in some other kitchens and typically they're not made to rent out," he said. "You're just kind of in someone else's kitchen."
Chef Rebecca Clubb of Whole Health Everyday, which focuses on gluten-, dairy-, soy- and egg-free meals, said finding time slots in other kitchens is also difficult.
"I think what most people end up doing is what I was doing — working around the schedules for commercial kitchens or restaurant kitchens when it's not in use," she said. "Or you can cook from your house, but that's illegal."
Clients at the Hood can access the space 24 hours a day and reserve kitchens using an online scheduling system, Frazier said.
The company is home to more than 35 clients ranging from bakers, specialty food producers, caterers, cooking instructors and personal chefs.
The Hood sends those who are just starting out to outside agencies like the health department and insurance companies to get the right permits, certification and insurance.
Clubb uses Kitchen No. 6 two days a week and prepares 15 to 20 entrees for each of her clients a day.
"It's a lot easier now that I have a space I can call my own," she said. "That's what's so great. It's not about using someone else's kitchen, it's about using my kitchen."
Clubb said other benefits include being able to advertise to customers the location of where she cooks and the use of a meeting room where she can bring in clients.
The Hood and spaces like it are categorized as "incubator kitchens," said Brian Wong, environmental health specialist at the Orange County Healthcare Agency.
"There are only a few of us out there," Frazier said. "We like to bring the person with the little company in and help them grow their business. It's to help them incubate their business until it grows into a bigger company."
The Hood also offers clients the option of ordering produce and other items wholesale through their vendor accounts.
Clubb estimates she saves close to 30% by using The Hood's vendor account for produce.
"It's a great stepping stone to get your own brick and mortar place," she said. "I definitely want to get to the point of where I can have my own storefront."
The Hood Kitchen
Hood Kitchen rates: (For four hours of studio and kitchen space)
$250 including food storage
$50 one-time application fee
$400 to $1,000 for insurance for one year
$226 health department consulting fee to obtain a permit
Permit fees vary.
Address: 850-A Clinton St., Costa Mesa