Update, July 11: Eater Boston reports that Foundation Kitchen’s second location is now open and that they’re planning a third location for Brookline.
Foundation Kitchen cofounders Ciaran Nagle and Tara Novak are nothing if not ambitious—and maybe, Nagle admits, a little nuts. Just months after the husband-wife duo opened their first shared kitchen at 121 Washington St., they’re already poised to expand into a second space down the road at 3 Washington St.
“Our initial thought had been, we’ll take the smaller space, get settled in, really get the motor running and in a year’s time, think about looking at a second option,” Nagle says.
But almost the instant its doors opened in November, the timeshare kitchen—which gives startup food businesses the opportunity to rent out space and test their concept without committing to a brick-and-mortar location—was at capacity, packed with a diverse roster of local eateries that includes The Chicken and Rice Guys and Black Magic Coffee Co.
Today, even the city of Somerville rents out time at Foundation Kitchen; the Arts Council’s Nibble program hosts cooking classes in the Washington Street location.
That instant interest has confirmed to Novak and Nagle that there’s a real need for shared spaces in the culinary community. They were inspired to open Foundation Kitchen not only because of their love for food—though that certainly was a factor—but due their artistic backgrounds. As performing, professional musicians (Nagle is an Irish tenor and Novak is a violinist, and that’s actually how they met), they often needed to rent space to practice or record.
The pair reasoned that having access to a kitchen on a part-time basis could similarly be a boon to small players in the culinary world. Opening a commercial kitchen can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the business is volatile. Plenty of eateries start and fail within a year or two, often because they can’t generate the overhead they need to stay afloat. Foundation Kitchen both lowers the barrier to entry and provides the opportunity for would-be restaurateurs to scale up, whether they need just an hour a week or a few days a week, until they’re ready to open their own brick and mortar location—ideally, right here in town.
“We’re looking at stimulating new, creative businesses and really centering them here out of Somerville,” Nagle says. “There’s such an eclectic and diverse ethnic mix of people here.”
And even if, six months into a stay, a chef has to bow out of Foundation Kitchen because the idea isn’t working or they want to adjust, at the very least, they won’t be bankrupt. “There’s nothing but success out of the model,” Nagle says (though he admits that he can’t do anything to heal wounded pride).
The need for more kitchen space isn’t the only thing spurring Nagle and Novak’s rapid expansion. The space at 3 Washington St. was already zoned as a restaurant, which will allow the duo to achieve their bigger vision for Foundation Kitchen, which includes pop-up restaurant experiences, community events, educational courses and guest visits from locally- and internationally-renowned chefs. Eventually, they’d like to find an even larger Somerville space that could house music and art studios in addition to kitchen space, “a cultural incubator,” Nagle calls it.
But for now, Foundation Kitchen’s second location is awaiting its final inspections, while Nagle and Novak sift through an already vibrant waitlist of companies looking to secure time in the new building.
“There are mornings when we wake up and go, ‘This is the best thing that’s ever happened to us,’ and then we wake up in the morning and go, ‘Are we completely and utterly, certifiably crazy?'” Nagle laughs. “But to see the businesses flourish and to see people really get an opportunity is extraordinary for us.”