Cooking up the American Dream at Kitchen@812

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By Raquel Toledo

Cindy Howell, owner of Granny’s Kitchen, is one of 17 “food-preneurs” cooking up their “American Dream” out of Kitchen@812 – a nonprofit food business incubator based in Contra Costa County.

Cindy grew up in the Bronx with her grandmother, 7 uncles, 7 aunts and 68 first cousins. It was simple – “If you wanted to eat, you had to cook”, she says. However, her inspiration for cooking wasn’t sparked by necessity.  It came from watching her Grandmother create culinary magic in the kitchen and “making the most creative meals from nothing”, Cindy shares.

After serving in the military, Cindy planted new roots in the heart of Richmond working as a nurse. It was there she found a calling to leverage her culinary talent and start a healthy food based catering business, Granny’s Kitchen. Her mission was a twofer– create healthier eating alternatives for the Richmond community and, of course, prove that kale chips could be far more delicious than potato chips when cooked in Granny’s Kitchen. The menu would offer a unique and tasty twist on locally grown, plant-based meals and fresh pressed juices.

As with so many aspiring entrepreneurs, Cindy had the vision and the drive, but no clear path on how to pursue the entrepreneurial dream.

Learning about Kitchen@812, Cindy was able to connect her business to an invaluable resource. Kitchen@812, operated by the Business Development Center, provided Cindy access to an affordable shared commercial kitchen space and guided her through the steps in growing a successful food business, supporting her with marketing and operations.

Today, Granny’s Kitchen is healthy and thriving. The food is a reflection of the chef herself, vibrant and energy-boosting. You can usually find Cindy cooking with a smile and dancing in the shared kitchen as she tells you all about the wonderful ways you can cook a vegetable you’ve likely never explored.  She also provides demonstration cooking classes on a monthly basis.

She takes pride in staying true to her mission to promote healthy eating and has expanded to include “Raw Food” cooking demos out of the commercial kitchen.  The demos are intended to teach the Richmond community how to “reverse diabetes and lower blood pressure by introducing raw plant food into their daily nutritional diet,” says Cindy.

You didn’t think she was stopping there, did you? Cindy has the dream that keeps on dreaming. Her cold pressed juices infused with organic fresh fruit, veggies and agave have proven to be a popular item on her catering menu and at the local Farmers Market. Capitalizing on this new juicing trend and with the help of Kitchen@812, Cindy is ready to pursue her next venture to take her juices wholesale.

About Kitchen@812

Kitchen@812 is a nonprofit food business incubator operated by the Business Development Center. Whether the dream is to open a bakery or catering business, Kitchen@812 works to leverage the culinary talents and passions of aspiring entrepreneurs and turn what they love to do into a growing business.  The program offers free business assistance and access to an affordable commercial kitchen space to support the launch of “food-preneurs”.  To learn more, visitwww.wccbdc.org or call 510.691.7439.

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