West Philadelphia: The People of The Center For Culinary Enterprise

Marie Ali, founder of 'Tastes Like More,' in her West Philly home.

Marie Ali, an entrepreneur who started the catering business “Tastes Like More,” was forced to push her business to the side when she moved to West Philadelphia four years ago.

“I was not able to continue my business here because of my location, my stove size, my refrigeration size,” Ali explained. “It wasn’t accessible for me, going up and down steps, bringing up food and all that, to have my business here.”

Marie Ali, founder of 'Tastes Like More,' in her West Philly home.

Fortunately for Ali, The Enterprise Center Community Develop Corporation (TEC-CDC) has plans to break ground on a new Center for Culinary Enterprise this September. The Center for Culinary Enterprise will be built in a vacant supermarket on 48th Street, between Spruce and Pine Streets, which is just a quick walk from Ali’s home.

“Doing my first love was put on the back burner, because I needed to feed my family, so I had to go out and find other work,” said Ali. “This [Center for Culinary Enterprise] will enable me to do what I really enjoy, which is cooking, and pursue a real career in it.”

Ali, who is on the board of directors for The Center for Culinary Enterprise, is one of many people who will directly benefit from The Center for Culinary Enterprise. Many people living in the Walnut Hill and Garden Court communities run businesses out of their homes. Some are pastry chefs, some cater and some are juice makers yet many of them have one thing in common- they lack the resources to become a business in a location outside the home.  The Center for Culinary Enterprise has taken this need into consideration, and will be offering information and assistance to those looking to get such necessities as obtaining a Tax ID number for their business. The Center will also provide a completely licensed and sanitation-certified kitchen for these entrepreneurs to base their businesses out of.

“Sometimes people just don’t know how to go to the next step, and this place will be a place you can come to to learn how to make your dreams become reality,” Ali explains.

Currently, TEC-CDC is planning to rent out the kitchen space by the hour, although the renters will be able to rent for several hours, several days, or even a week if they need to.

“We did the preliminary survey on how much someone could afford per hour,” said Ali. “It will be functional for everybody, whether you need it for a week, a day, or a couple of hours.”

The loading bay will allow people to unload directly from their car into the kitchen.

The Center for Culinary Enterprise will not only provide entrepreneurs with all the necessary tools to become legitimate businesses, it will also offer easy accessibility to those who use it. A loading bay in the back parking lot will make it easier on those who usually have to carry all of their products up and down stairs, or from further away from their homes.

As Ali stated, “When you are buying food, getting it into your home can sometimes be a chore, if you’re doing [the cooking] out of your home.”

The Center for Culinary Enterprise is not a stand-alone project. TEC-CDC intends to create a circular economy by bringing together local food producers, food processors and food sellers. The Walnut Hill Community Farm, another project of TEC-CDC located at 46th and Market streets, will sell some of their produce to those who are cooking at The Center for Culinary Enterprise.

“We can buy the produce at a reasonable price,” said Ali. “It’s healthy, all these things that we are encouraging, and advertise it as that, promote it as that. This is all from your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, and back to your neighborhood. It’s a cycle.”

Habtamu Kassa, owner of local coffee shop Kaffa Crossing, will be renting both retail areas in The Center for Culinary Enterprise. One area will be an Ethiopian café, while the other may be used as a market space where he sells local products. He feels that creating The Center for Culinary Enterprise and keeping as much of the content local as possible is beneficial to the community.

Habtamu Kassa, owner of Kaffa Crossing.

“We try to do different kinds of stores, one where we are both providing and selling to different kinds of people,” Kassa said.

Both Ali and Kassa are excited by the opportunities that The Center for Culinary Enterprise will provide them with.

“I would be able to really see my dream come to life, and take it to the next level,” said Ali. “I would be in a facility where I wouldn’t have to worry about ‘I cant get that contract,’ or someone saying to me ‘What’s your tax id number, are you coded?’ All those things would be taken care of.”

To learn more about The Center for Culinary Enterprise, read this related article.

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