3rd Ward gets $1.5 million to open kitchen for food start-ups

Pig out! 3rd Ward’s BBQ blow-out returns this Saturday
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

Brooklyn’s starving artists won’t have to look far to fill their appetites.

3rd Ward will receive a $1.5-million grant from Borough President Markowitz to train and nurture the borough’s culinary talents, expanding the Bushwick art space’s do-it-yourself empire into the kitchen.

“This incubator will provide culinary entrepreneurs with the tools, equipment, and workspace that they would otherwise not be able to afford,” said Markowitz, who pledged to fund a culinary hub last year and announced that the city’s Economic Development Corporation had chosen 3rd Ward as the recipient at his State of the Borough Address at Brooklyn College on Wednesday night.

The so-called “culinary incubator” will open in a neighborhood with high levels of unemployment, such as Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, or East New York, according to Crain’s, which broke the story.

A 3rd Ward spokeswoman said the funding will go toward acquiring a new building for the kitchen separate from its Morgan Avenue flagship. The new space will host cooking classes at all levels and feature a commercial kitchen decked out with professional equipment that will allow entrepreneurial cooks to develop their own food products for Brooklyn’s discerning marketplace, she said.

The popular multi-disciplinary arts and education center is best known for hosting drawing, woodworking, and metalworking classes, art exhibits and craft fairs over the past five years. But it’s not the first time 3rd Ward has put on its chef’s whites.

The organization put together pig roasts, ran a high-end food truck in a reclaimed trailer on Lorimer Street, and is planning to add a cafe to its Morgan Avenue building and a restaurant in its new Philadelphia outpost.

But the incubator is 3rd Ward’s biggest step into Brooklyn’s booming food industry — and the art space’s neighbors say this could be great for the borough (and that’s not just because they’ll be close to all that food).

Leah Archibald, director of the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corporation, thinks the communal kitchen could whip up new jobs.

“3rd Ward has been a hive of activity for all sorts of small creative businesses,” said Archibald. “It’s the next logical step to create a hive of activity for food production, which is a growing subsector in manufacturing.”

And there could be more food incubators to follow.

Williamsburg’s Moore Street Market, which received federal and city funding for a new public plaza, is planning on adding a $300,000 commercial kitchen with 24-hour access and culinary training programs for food start-up businesses.

And Marketshare, a Greenpoint-based group that arose after the Greenpoint Food Market closed in 2010 because many of its vendors did not have food-handling permits, is seeking funding for a new North Brooklyn commercial kitchen.

“We’re had hundreds of individuals and businesses approach us, but one of the big bottlenecks right now is there aren’t enough facilities or spaces to produce food legally,” said Marketshare co-founder Sidra Durst.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2547.