Entrepreneur Creates Hub For Budding Artisanal Food Producers

By Geoff Ziezulewicz
Chicago Tribune.

Plainfield resident Gayatri Borthakur started making and selling her own Indian spice blends in the area about five years ago.

While she said she has had success in getting her curry powder, tandoori rub and other spices onto the shelves of a Whole Foods in Naperville, she also has learned the nebulous nature of being a producer of small-batch, artisanal food products.

Small merchants sometimes lack a physical space to show off what they make and must depend on a website, word of mouth and social media.

Now, the 50-year-old former nutritionist and mother is aiming to change that by creating a hub of sorts for area producers of specialty food items.

Saage Culinary Studio is slated to open in coming weeks in the 2700 block of Aurora Avenue in Naperville. The 2,000 square-foot space will offer a professional grade kitchen for small food entrepreneurs, offering them the capacity and quality of a pro setup for rent. The space also will feature a demonstration kitchen and a small retail area.

Borthakur said her family owns numerous hotels and restaurants in her native India, and that she has always been itching to open her own business.

“I have the gene working inside me,” she said.

After starting Curry’s her spice business, Borthakur said she heard time and again a lament from small food producers about a lack of production and display space.

“I thought, OK, somebody has to do it,” she said.

The space will feature lots of stainless steel, including stoves with bigger burners and the capacity to cook hotter and faster than at home, Borthakur said.

“In the spice business, I only use the grinder and the baking pan,” she said. “Bakers use more appliances.”

The demonstration kitchen will be available to host cooking and nutrition classes, she said, as well as children’s parties.

One organization plans on offering vegetarian cooking classes, Borthakur said.

“I have been feeling very excited,” she said. “There is a great response.”

In order to help the cooks who keep the locally sourced foodie scene thriving, Borthakur said her shop will see products in a retail area near the front.

“I know how it is, so I’m trying to lessen that,” she said. “They know they’ll have at least one space to sell their products.”

Borthakur said she has been in touch with local farmers about selling their produce in her shop.

“They can network with each other and network with similarly minded people,” she said. “It’s going to be a meeting place for the producers and the public.”

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