YOUR PRO KITCHEN
November 27 - December 3, 2017
By Becca Bona
At some point in a chef’s career, the dream of pursuing a passion project floats to the surface. Maybe that thought revolves around starting a line of salsas, opening a catering concept, or even producing a full line of specialized French-inspired pastries.
Whatever the goal, a long list of barriers can keep enthusiastic food artisans from making it past the wishful-thinking stage.
No one knows this better than Jon Lamb, a local chef-turned-businessman who recently experienced the above scenario first-hand. Luckily, around the same time he discovered Your Pro Kitchen, a culinary incubator franchise based in Florida.
“I myself was looking to break away from the man,” he says, “[but] there was not a viable commercial kitchen in Little Rock where a young food business could really succeed right away.”
He put his dreams on hold and began working on bringing a location to Little Rock. Lamb opened for business this past summer, after nearly two years of striving to get everything off the ground. And, although you can’t see the culinary space from the street at 9813 West Markham, the 5,000 square foot facility nestled behind Fuller and Sons Hardware is something to behold.
Your Pro Kitchen currently houses three clients – Arkansas Gourmet Rice Company, Cinnalightful, and Banana Leaf. Lamb hopes to see the number double by early 2018. Every little step forward for his clients has been a step forward for Your Pro Kitchen, and he feels this is only the beginning.
“That’s Your Pro Kitchen’s bonus – is that the owners are as invested as you are. We want you to succeed, so we’re glad to set you on the right path,” he says. “When a company comes in and gets started with us and then grows up so much that they need to go get their own brick and mortar – that’s a success.”
Born in Truman, Ark., in the ‘70s, Lamb moved with his adopted family all over the U.S. before settling in Washington, where he did the bulk of his growing up.
He came back to Arkansas and settled in Little Rock when the River Market was just getting its legs again in the late ‘90s. He got his feet wet in the local food industry working at the then-River Rock Brewing Company when it first opened as well as the then-Excelsior Hotel. Lamb worked in other establishments in the River Market, moonlighted as a bartender, and also worked the country club circuit.
“There’s not a whole lot of opportunity for chefs – especially when you get out of culinary school. You may have high hopes, but if you end up in Little Rock there are only so many places that want that executive chef,” he said.
Lamb attended two out of three years of a culinary program, and knows what the 30 to 60 new yearly graduates from the Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management Institute at Pulaski Technical College are feeling upon graduation.
“That’s another one of the reasons that I really want to make this happen – is to expand the opportunities for those kids coming out of culinary school. They don’t have to be an executive chef on a line somewhere if they don’t want to. For instance, they can go start their own line of sauces and find other manufacturing outlets,” he said.
That’s where Your Pro Kitchen comes in, and it’s set up to meet any culinary need.
“We’re a very versatile company. Everything is on wheels – that’s kind of our mentality – this is a modular kitchen and things can shift easily to allow new businesses to come in,” Lamb explained.
Whether you have a full-fledged business plan or are unsure of your steps, Lamb can help. From tax numbers to the various permits you’ll need – it’s all covered, as he said, “We can help you get your business started from square one, if you need it.”
Coming from someone who is chasing his own dream, Lamb wants nothing more than to see his clients succeed. He’s already seen his current clients reap benefits from Your Pro Kitchen, and keeps that at the forefront of his mind.
“If we were to max this kitchen out … we would go and open another space. There’s always going to be Your Pro Kitchen space available.”
In other words – Lamb is one step closer to making a chef’s opportunities endless.
For more information visit: https://www.yourprokitchen.com/location/little-rock-ar/.
Pro Kitchen CLIENT Spotlight
April Muhammad of Arkansas Gourmet Rice Company
As a value-added food producer, April Muhammad and her husband, Cedric, make Arkansas rice mixes that are rinsed, roasted, and seasoned in-house. The Muhammads decided to try out the farmer’s market circuit in the wake of a job loss and began selling in Jonesboro before relocating to Little Rock.
April Muhammad said, “We did well working in a commercial kitchen housed at a church in Argenta,” Muhammad said, “But, we needed equipment that would allow us to be more efficient. Your Pro Kitchen in Little Rock allowed us to do just that. It had modern equipment, convection ovens, and lots of space for prep and storage; and was truly a no-brainer.
The rental price was surprisingly low for the amenities provided.”
These days you can buy Arkansas Gourmet Rice Company products at Drug Emporium – an accomplishment the team is extremely proud of.
“I suggest to anyone who is interested in trying their hand at starting a business, to just do it. Create your product and find
a farmer’s market that is a good fit for you. If you are unsure of what you need to get started, just pay Jon Lamb a visit. He is always willing to give guidance to business owners and help in any way he can,” she added.
Matcha Norwood of Cinnalightful
Matcha Norwood operates Cinnalightful, a dessert company specializing in cinnamon rolls with different toppings, gourmet scones, and various other desserts.
Inspired by her friends and family to take her baking to the next level, Norwood took the plunge in April of 2016.
“Your Pro Kitchen is a life saver. Since our business consists of 80 percent wholesale baking we needed a facility to prep and bake in bulk. We use the facility five to six days a week,” she explained.
She now offers desserts to local restaurants, including Banana Leaf – another Your Pro Kitchen client that utilizes the space to ready their rice and sauces. The space is more than a kitchen – it’s a forum for culinary networking and collaboration.
“I would recommend YPK to all caterers and/or manufacturers. The space and the ability to use all the commercial equipment will make your life a whole lot easier,” she said.
Jon Lamb, owner and operator of Your Pro Kitchen, opened the doors to the Little Rock location this past summer. (Photos by Becca Bona)