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Kitchen 231 Brings Participatory Dining to German Village

Walker Evans Walker Evans Kitchen 231 Brings Participatory Dining to German Village
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If you like to host dinner parties with friends, but don’t necessarily like to clean up afterward, then you’ll be excited to learn that The Kitchen 231 will be the perfect new place for you. This new German Village business is scheduled to open this spring to offer a space for dinner parties, cooking classes and other similar types of events.

We spoke recently with The Kitchen co-owner Anne Boninsegna to find out more about the new venue.

Q: First, can you tell us a bit about your background?

A: My business partner Jen Lindsey and I have been cooking, catering and throwing parties together for about 15 years. We both spent extensive careers at Franklin Park Conservatory. I was heavily involved in Special Events there in my early career and then moved into executive management. My background before that was in catering and event planning, so food and parties has always been part of my life. I feel pretty fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to learn management, strategic planning and marketing skills and grow with such an important community organization. Jen was the registrar at the Conservatory for about 10 years and also helped to build the food program there. She left there a year and a half ago to attend Columbus State Community College in the Hospitality Management/Culinary Apprenticeship program, but she is still teaching cooking programs for them now. She has apprenticed under Chef Paul Yow at Barcelona and Chef Josh Wickham at Rocky Fork Country Club, as well as doing in-house catering at the Columbus Museum of Art. Jen has a lot of customer service and experiential marketing experience. We have diverse professional backgrounds that meld together really well. We both feel that our experience working at a non-profit was the perfect training ground for business ownership. Non-profits are constantly required to be creative, think outside the box and utilize every dollar in the most strategic way.

Q: Can you describe the concept at Kitchen 231 for our readers to help understand exactly what it is?

A: The Kitchen 231 is a participatory cooking and dining venue. The idea is that you will spend the evening working with others to create an entire 3-4 course dinner menu and then sit down together to dine, enjoy each others company, make new friends, learn a little something and relax. It is a night out where cooking and great food are the focus. We like to say it is dinner and the movie all wrapped up in one. It is dinner, but it is also the “what are we going to do after dinner?” part. Columbus has a terrific dining scene. There are a lot of great places to eat and there are some fun cooking classes taking place out there. We are going to be a little of both. At The Kitchen though, it will be less formal. You will be encouraged to talk, visit the other cooking stations, see what is going on around you, discuss techniques and learn from your fellow cooking partners. We will be there to guide the process and make sure dinner gets on the table. If you have ever gone to a friends house for a dinner party and asked if you could help with anything, this is that night! However, neither you nor your friends have to plan the menu, go to the grocery or clean up. We have that covered. You just sign up online (website coming soon) for a dining event that suits you and come ready to have a memorable evening of hands-on cooking and dining with fellow food lovers, we’ll do the rest. Dining events will range from regionally focused cuisine (French, Southern Italian or Mexican) to something a little more unique like cooking in response to a certain musician, book or piece of art work. I have dreams of building a menu in response to Picasso’s blue period. I am already anticipating the dinner conversation that night!

We will have a schedule of weekly dining events that people can participate in, or our space can be used for private parties and we will work with the group to customize a dining event that is perfect for them. The Kitchen will have two times during the week where you can drop in and just eat. Our Taco Tuesday Take-Out dinner and Hangover Brunch (Saturday late morning-afternoon) will operate similar to a food truck, more of a “get it while its here, because when its gone its gone” concept. We will feature recipes we have been working on for several years, including our Chicken Dinner Taco and Lobster Roll Taco. At Hangover Brunch you will get to imbibe with our Hair of the Dog cocktail menu or soak up last nights cocktail(s) with our Soy Sage & Mushroom Gravy over Buttermilk Biscuits with Poached Eggs or Ham & Gruyere Waffles with braised Kale. We intend to help cure what ails you on those mornings you need it most.

Q: So what drew you to the former Video Central location in German Village to open The Kitchen?

A: I am a German Village resident (I live just one block away from the building), so I was aware when Video Central closed of the hole that left along Livingston Avenue. I drove by the building several times a day and it may sound crazy, but it just seemed to call to me and I finally gave in. Although we had been planning some type of food-related business concept for several years, the moment we walked into the building our plans dramatically shifted and an experience we had with a cooking camp (where the concept for The Kitchen was inspired) while working at The Conservatory came back to us and we just knew it was the best possible use of the space. A restaurant would be great there, but the space really deserves more energy than passive eating offers. It deserves for people to be up and milling about and covering every inch of its old bones.

We have a great design plan to enhance and update its natural charm and architecture. It has incredible wood floors, and we are working to unearth the brick walls and will be restoring the tin ceiling. Because the building was basically just a big open room, without columns or funny rooms to think around, we were able to go in and easily dream up what the finished space will look like. It was a blank canvas.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your Kickstarter campaign, why you’re crowdsourcing funds and how that money will be spent?

A: Yes, our Kickstarter campaign is aimed at raising $40,000 in 40 days (as of today we have 4 days to go and are 88% of the way there). The start-up expenses for this project are considerable and we are trying to be as strategic as we can about it. We are very conscious about having enough money to solidly get off the ground. And, we are also trying to be very conscious about the need for any small business to hit the ground running. We think Kickstarter is a great way to raise some much needed funds, but also to market our concept to a focused audience. Kickstarter is a perfect fit for us too since it is about crowd sourced funding and we are about crowd sourced dining. We are expecting groups of people to come together, many of whom will not even know each other and cook together. It seems like a perfect segway from having just asked them to come together to back our project.

The money will be used to help with some of the start up expense… specifically, furnishings and finishes, architecture design fees, renovation and construction expenses, signage, licenses, permits, insurance and the initial stocking of our pantry.

Q: When do you plan on opening, and what type of hours/days of operation will you keep?

A: If all moves along smoothly with our build-out of the space we should open late spring of this year. We will operate six days a week whether it be Taco Tuesday, Hangover Brunch or a participatory dining event we have planned or we have helped a client plan for a private event.

Q: Anything else we should know about?

A: We have been in the planning stages for The Kitchen for a little over 3 years. I mentioned briefly that the concept was inspired by an experience we had at a cooking camp at The Conservatory. We talk about this in our Kickstarter video as well. For us, it was a game changing experience. We saw people from such different backgrounds come together, check any biases or preconceived notions at the door and let food be a common denominator and playing field leveler. We walked away from those two days of cooking feeling not only inspired to cook more, but with a stronger belief in humanity. Food is something we all need to survive yes, we must eat, but what happens when you eat with people is the part that is incredible. Friendships are foraged and differences forgotten because you have now had an experience with someone that allows you to understand them a little better, you’ve broken bread with them. That is what we hope to accomplish at the end of a dinner.

More information can be found online at www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kitchen-231/.

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