In late 2013, The Berkeley Kitchens opened as a commercial cooking and prep space for local artisan food businesses. As one of the only commercial kitchen spaces in the area to rent individual units to food purveyors, it filled a much-needed gap for food startups. Fast forward five years later, many of its tenants have thrived and remain, at The Berkeley Kitchens.
Its tenants include food makers from across the spectrum. There are several award-winning bakers in the house, a vegan meat and cheese manufacturer, a cracker maker, an organic coffee roaster, a chocolate company, and one of the area’s best farm-to-table restaurants. Many of the businesses are women-owned and operated, and all are local and share a similar ethos of making quality food with quality ingredients.
The Berkeley Kitchens is the brainchild of real estate developer, sculptor and Berkeley native Jonah Hendrickson, who got the idea for the project after being approached by a number of food businesses looking for rental kitchen space. He found the historic warehouse space on Eighth Street, in what was formerly home to a manufacturing company, and later an art collective until the building was abandoned in 2006. The building houses 15 kitchen spaces, although some spaces are sublet, so more than 15 businesses call the Berkeley Kitchens home.
“We’re fortunate to have such great tenants that create the community of The Berkeley Kitchens,” Hendrickson said. “It’s what makes the place extra special and successful.”
Building on the success of The Berkeley Kitchens, Hendrickson is also developing a second kitchen project. The General Storehouse in Alameda will be 70,000 square feet of commercial kitchen space (almost five times larger than Berkeley Kitchens) with live/work lofts and office space. Construction will start in a few months. “We’ll be looking to build a similar great community of makers in Alameda as well,” he said.
I checked in with the current Berkeley Kitchens tenants to learn more about their businesses and to taste a sampling of what they’re making. Note that since many of these are commercial operations, many are not open to the public. I have noted hours for public hours, when appropriate.
Third Culture Bakery
Third Culture Bakery business partners and couple Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu have brought a lot of joy and color into the world with their mochi muffins, mochi donuts and mochi waffles. The wholesale bakery specializes in Asian-influenced rice flour desserts that have a density and bounce to every bite. Third Culture opened its first retail location at The Berkeley Kitchens in 2018, where they serve a full menu of their sweet offerings, along with matcha tea drinks and coffee from 1951 Coffee Company.
Butarbutar is the mastermind behind the recipes, constantly experimenting and expanding Third Culture’s menu and repertoire of flavors. While more retail stores around the Bay Area are carrying its mochi muffins and donuts, soon, Third Culture is looking to expand its reach even further. It will open a second retail location near Denver (in Aurora, CO), with more bakeries to come in Los Angeles and elsewhere. Third Culture’s Berkeley Kitchens showroom is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Saturday.
Standard Fare offers casual, farm-to-table dining at its best. It was opened in 2014 by Kelsie Kerr, who previously worked at Chez Panisse, Café Rouge and Zuni Café.
The menu at Standard Fare changes daily, with many vegetarian options. The eatery is open for breakfast (from 8:30-11 a.m., Monday through Saturday), lunch (11-2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday), afternoon treats (2:30-3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday) and Saturday brunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Everything is made in-house daily using local ingredients and the best produce culled from the Berkeley and Temescal farmers markets. It also sells some ingredients at its retail pantry.
“We love serving the community here,” said Kerr, who’s known to recognize many of her regular customers by name.
The Butcher’s Son
The brother-and-sister duo behind downtown Berkeley’s popular vegan restaurant, The Butcher’s Son, moved into The Berkeley Kitchens last November. Peter Fikaris, who heads the kitchen and recipe testing, and Christina Stobing, who manages front of house, wholesale and the business side of things, both grew up in Berkeley. They opened The Butcher’s Son February 2016 on University Avenue with just three sandwiches, selling out on their first day within two hours.
Just over three-years-old now, The Butcher’s Son offers 20 sandwiches in a new, larger restaurant space at 1954 University Ave., just across the street from its original location. The Berkeley Kitchens space allows The Butcher’s Son to continue to make enough vegan meat, cheeses and baked goods to meet the ever-growing demand. These days, it makes about 200 pounds of dairy-free cheese a day.
Endorfin Foods owner Brian Wallace’s signature chocolate bars are made using consciously sourced cacao beans. The unique twist is that the smooth and creamy bars are produced with caramelized coconut milk and coconut sugar, without dairy and refined sugar.
Wallace opened his business about five years ago and has been in The Berkeley Kitchens for about a year and a half. Sourcing is a passion for Wallace, who has a background in botany and ethnography, and subscribes by the belief that “food is medicine.” He sees his company as a farm-to-table chocolate company, using ethically traded cacao from suppliers like Uncommon Cacao, organic and wildcrafted ingredients and compostables packaging.
Endorfin is known for its single-origin bars, as well as its uncommon flavored dark chocolate bars, like Absinthe and Turkish Coffee. It recently debuted Golden Mylk, a bar made with 40% cacao, turmeric, cardamom, black pepper and caramelized coconut milk and sugar. It also offers an unsweetened ritual drinking chocolate, made with ceremonial cacao from the Arhuacos indigenous community of Colombia.
Endorfin chocolates are available online, at Berkeley Bowl and about 400 other retailers on the West Coast.
Ruby’s Roast was one of the first tenants at The Berkeley Kitchens. This fair trade, organic small batch coffee roaster is operated by two childhood friends, Debbie Segal and Sherry Bloom. The founders said they started making coffee as a hobby because they both enjoy full-bodied, rich and dark blends. Ruby’s Roast uses beans from Central America, Africa and Indonesia, offering three blends — medium roast, dark roast and a decaf.
Ruby’s Roast coffees can be enjoyed at Saul’s Deli, Stella Nona and Babette’s at the Berkeley Art Museum/PFA café. Berkeley Kitchens’ neighbors Standard Fare serves a roast made specially for them. Ruby’s Roast also has a booth at the Kensington farmers market on Sundays. You can also find bags of its beans at the Safeway Community Markets, Berkeley Bowl, Piedmont Grocery and other retail stores; through Good Eggs or via Ruby’s Roast online coffee store.
Cult Crackers is another business run by a pair of friends. Dianna Dar and Birgitta Durell met when their daughters were schoolmates. The idea behind the crackers stemmed from Durell, who once sold Swedish dinnerware. At trade shows, she would bring homemade Swedish seed crackers along with her wares, and people would always tell her she should sell the crackers, too. Eventually, she listened. Dar, a trained cook, refined Durell’s recipe and Cult Crackers was born.
Durell and Dar moved into The Berkeley Kitchens about a year and a half ago, first as a subletter of Muffin Revolution (now in Richmond). The duo, now the master tenants of their own kitchen space, has sublet to others, including other women-owned businesses, like Bread SRSLY and Salt Point Seaweed. “It’s been a wonderful community for us,” said Dar about their home base.
Cult Cracker’s addictive, seeded crackers are quickly gaining popularity and are now in 75 stores. Hardy and hearty, they are made with a combination of sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, chia, hemp and flax seeds. Cult Crackers currently makes two varieties: the Cult Cracker classic, made from corn flour, and the cassava cracker. Both are certified organic and gluten-free.
Cult Crackers can be found in local markets, the North Berkeley all organic Thursdays farmers market and online.
Bread SRSLY started as a venture for Sadie Scheffer to impress a boy, who had recently gone gluten-free. In an attempt to win him over by way of his stomach, Scheffer started making loaves of gluten-free bread. His heart was eventually won, and Scheffer continued her project, experimenting with recipes and testing samples out with friends for several years. Finally, in 2011, she started Bread SRSLY in San Francisco.
Scheffer moved to The Berkeley Kitchens in 2017, originally subletting from Cult Crackers. Now, in her own space, she continues to make organic, vegan and gluten-free sourdough breads. Scheffer says by using sourdough, her products are easier to digest, and healthier for the gut. The breads are made with a combination of gluten-free flours including white rice, millet and sorghum, and along with being free of gluten, are also free of eggs, dairy, soy, sugar, tree nuts, peanuts, potatoes, tapioca, and chickpeas.
Loaves of Bread SRSLY can be found in the refrigerated section of your local East Bay grocer, through Good Eggs and through direct order from the Bread SRSLY website.
Handmade bagels in Berkeley! At The Berkeley Kitchens, wholesale baker Dan Graf makes Baron Baking bagels, a take on the New York-style, but that are a little denser, with a crispier crust. Baron offers six kinds — from plain to everything — usually producing up to 1,000 bagels a day at the commercial space. Baron bagels take three days to make, including a 48-hour fermentation period and a cold rise to build flavor.
Fun fact: Graf met his future wife, Christy Kovacs of Revolution Muffins, in The Berkeley Kitchens. Kovacs’ company was also a tenant there, although they have since moved to Richmond.
Baron Baking is a mostly wholesale operation, but customers can order bagels online (minimum order is a dozen) to pick up from the bakery with at least 48 hour’s notice. You can also find Baron bagels at many East Bay coffee shops and restaurants, including Saul’s, Bette’s Oceanview Diner, Highwire Coffee, Souvenir Coffee, The Butcher’s Son and Quince.
Morell’s Bread, original tenants at The Berkeley Kitchen, is run by Eduardo Morrell and Tamsen Fynn, a husband-and-wife team who have been baking together for years.
Starting in 1998, Morell began baking at the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts while interning at the kitchen there. After the internship ended, he continued using the kitchen to make his whole-grain sourdough breads, and in 2002, a year after meeting Fynn, Morrell’s became a two-person operation.
Since moving to The Berkeley Kitchens, the couple have been able to double the amount of bread they can make. All of their sourdoughs are organic and slow-fermented. Morell’s specializes in multigrain loaves, such as a 100% whole wheat (using wheat sourced from Full Belly Farm), rye, barley and oats.
Morell’s Bread has a stand at the Thursday and Saturday Berkeley farmers markets. You can also visit them at The Berkeley Kitchens on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when they are open to the public.
La Noisette Sweets
Alain Shocron is the baker behind La Noisette Sweets, a cake and pastry company. With influences from Morocco, Spain, France and Canada — all places where he’s lived — he makes beautiful tarts, cookies, cakes and more. “La Noisette” means hazelnut in French, and several of his pastries use the ingredient.
Shocron hasn’t always been a baker. He went from owning seven hair salons in Berkeley to going back to school to learn about pastries. While mostly a French-style patisserie, La Noisette also offers pastries with an Italian flair and some with Spanish ingredients, like Manchego cheese. La Noisette’s two signature treats are a pistachio and strawberry croissant, and a chocolate hazelnut croissant and tart.
La Noisette is open for custom orders and is also open to the public on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at The Berkeley Kitchens. La Noisette is also at the Kensington farmers market on Sundays.
Joan Gallagher used to cook for 3,500 school children, daily. From 2007-2011, she ran the production kitchen and edible schoolyard for Berkeley Unified School District. Now, she runs her own school lunch business called Nourish You.
Nourish You began when her son started attending school at Black Pine Circle and Gallagher pitched the idea of making food for kids and teachers there. These days, in addition to Black Pine Circle, Nourish You provides hot lunches for the East Bay School for Boys and The Berkeley School.
Gallagher’s ethos is “real food for school kids.” Nourish You introduces school children to fare that they may not regularly eat at home or be familiar with at all. On the day I visited Nourish You at The Berkeley Kitchens, the team was making a lunch featuring Thai basil curry, roasted Brussels sprouts, cauliflower basmati rice and freshly cut Cara Cara oranges. Meals are served buffet-style at schools to kids and staff. “We get them to try new things,” Gallagher said. As for leftovers, nothing is wasted. The nutritious food is brought to homeless encampments, delivered by Gallagher, her son and several of her staff members.
Potliquor is a catering company run by Laura McGrath and Jennifer Lynch, who create customized menus for special occasions. The two met 20 years ago as line cooks at Bisou in San Francisco and started catering together in 2013.
The duo consider themselves a bespoke operation, creating seasonal, locally sourced menus in collaboration with their clients to offer “heartfelt dishes” for all types of affairs, from weddings to corporate events. Their dishes not only taste good, but look amazing. Think salads, appetizers and deviled eggs topped with edible flowers or herbs. While they love collaborating with clients on customized menus, they also offer a seasonal menu of platters for those who want to be able to choose from a menu.
Stonehouse Olive Oil
Stonehouse California Olive Oil makes a variety of extra virgin olive oils made with locally grown olives from Capay Valley and Woodland. They also make vinegars, spices, salts and other products. Although they have a retail shop at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, Stonehouse is not open to the public at The Berkeley Kitchens, where it rents a small office space. Stonehouse may expand to the General Storehouse in Alameda once completed.
Visit Stonehouse at the Ferry Building or buy the products on its online shop. You can also pick Stonehouse oils in the pantry of Standard Fare, which also uses its olive oil in some of the dishes. Stonehouse’s Olio Santo line is available through Williams Sonoma.
Cakes Made by M.E.
Marla Erojo has been baking for a long time. For years, she worked for other bakeries and for a wedding cake business. The CCA grad launched Cakes Made by M.E., her own boutique bakery in 2000. She moved into The Berkeley Kitchens in 2013.
Erojo makes custom cakes, cupcakes and cookies for birthdays, weddings and other special events.
Cakes Made by M.E. offers tastings by appointment at The Berkeley Kitchens.
There were three Berkeley Kitchens tenants I was unable to visit for this article:
Just Relish and Tasha DeSerio, both original tenants, are catering companies run by women. Just Relish is run by Amy Hamilton (head chef) and sisters Kristen and Andrea Braasch (wedding and special events coordinators ). The three met while working at Indulge Catering. Just Relish has garnered rave reviews from customers, who praise their professionalism, thoughtfulness and their food. Tasha DeSerio has years of experience, including cooking at Chez Panisse, and is the founder and executive chef of her eponymous catering company. Her menu shows off the best of what’s fresh and local to the Bay Area.
Salt Point Seaweed is a sub-tenant at The Berkeley Kitchens. The women-owned hand harvests seaweed from the Mendocino coast, using the Cult Crackers kitchens during the off-season to prepare and package their goods. They sell several of their products, including dried kombu, wakame and their ready-to-eat Surf Snack, online and appear twice a month at the Kensington farmers market. (Read more about Salt Point Seaweed in this recent feature on Nosh.)