The Chocolate Life

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Hello Chocolate Lifers ;^) I'm a new subscriber, starting a chocolate business, and have tons of questions to ask. I'm in New Mexico, where the health codes prohibit any food production for sale from the home - I have to work in an approved kitchen. I know that renting time in a commercial kitchen is one way many people get their start. Can anyone give me an idea of what to expect to pay to use someone else's kitchen during their off hours? I expect that these arrangements are often based on personal connections, and might vary widely depending on where you are. I'm currently working out of a kitchen incubator that charges an hourly rate that is too high for my operation to handle, as my production and sales are still very small. Any ideas on what a comparable cost might be would be helpful. $300/month? $500? $10/hr?

TIA for your insights,

Steve Whitman

Choco Canyon Artisan Chocolate

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I am in Montana and have been looking at commercial kitchen space recently and it ranges here from $15/hour up to $40/hour.  Prices can vary widely and, of course, verify the kitchen it "legal" with the Health Dept.

FYI - most if not all states prohibit food production from a home ktichen.  You can consider setting up a kitchen that meets code in a garage or basement space.

Good luck!

Get creative and try to find a kitchen in a school, church or other facility that doesn't use it much.  If that doesn't work, find a business that is busier in the summer, when you are not, and need some rent money in the winter when you need the kitchen.  I share a commercial kitchen with gals that make granola.  Their business is busy in the summer with Farmers Markets and less busy in the winter.  I provided the kitchen with some equipment, ie SS table, speed rack, gas stove, copper kettle, etc. They use my equipment all year, and I go in the kitchen as needed.  They don't charge me unless I use the kitchen several times a week.  I also have my home-based kitchen that I use for chocolate production.  I found it was very hard to work chocolate in conditions I couldn't control.  Sharing a kitchen for chocolate is difficult at best. Good luck.
Ruth is 100% right regarding sharing space.  I was going to mention looking for a church or school but that is not allowed where I live, so make sure it is allowed where you are.  She is also 100% correct about it being difficult to share space when making chocolate.  As we all know chocolate can pick up scents/flavors.  One of the kitchens presented as an option to me was normally a kitchen for a BBQ place!!  The other thing to bear in mind is that other people's standards of cleanliness and organization may not match yours with regard to any workspace you may rent.  Please visit any space you are considering and ask who else might be using the space and to check how the equipment is laid out and if the facility is clean.
In the DC area 4 years ago I paid $30 an hour and that was cheap! And I fully concur with others remarks regarding odors, cleanliness, and organization. As well, it's sometimes a good thing, sometimes not, if you can arrange for storage space of some of your products so you don't have to schlep everything every time you go.
Thanks for the responses. It looks like my place is actually at the lower end of the cost scale. Which means my "fix" is to greatly increase production speed. Tempering capactiy is my bottleneck right now - need to get a big enough machine to make it worthwhile to add some helpers and boost production/ per hour. Thanks again.


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