A veteran Calgary chef is bringing new hope to people hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, offering a recipe for success in the food service industry’s struggle for survival.
Herbert Obrecht operates a shared commercial kitchen space called Culinary Coworking, renting out spots to businesses involved in food preparation and sales.
“They come in maybe for four hours, six hours, 10 hours — whatever they need,” he said.
Obrecht has recently expanded — tripling the size of the space — because of increased demand during the pandemic.
Among those renting at the facility is Conner Kadziolka, who runs Sprout Society, a business making and delivering plant-based meals to people’s homes.
“I was going to be a teacher and now I’m chopping tofu,” Kadziolka said.
Kadziolka had been getting all set to start his first teaching job in early 2020, but then the pandemic hit.
“It led to kind of a definite pivot, because there was no prospect of work at the time,” Kadziolka said.
Obrecht also offers a bit of cooking coaching to those renting space.
“I have a really big book of things not to do, so that kind of helps them — they do not make the same mistakes that I did,” he said. “And it’s nice to be able to say I helped them along.”
Among the clients not needing many tips is Steve Szostak, who grew up in the kitchen.
“(It) started when I was young, in my sister’s restaurant, at (age) eight,” Szostak said.
Szostak runs Smoke N BBQ, a business specializing in smoked meat.
He had opened a full-service restaurant a few months before COVID-19 hit, which left him with no choice but to shut it down.
“With the pandemic, we just couldn’t sustain the overhead that we had,” Szostak said. “So having a spot like this, we can have a smoker, we smoke (the meat) overnight and then we put it into our food truck.
“The future’s bright.”
Kadziolka has been steadily expanding his business.
“Growing from a one- or two-person team, cooking out of our own kitchen to a team of seven to eight,” he said.
Kadziolka said he may eventually take up teaching, but for now, “this is my dream come true.”