Test kitchen provides boost for rural food firms

Small aspiring food businesses in the north east are being offered a unique opportunity to test their creations at an independent commercial kitchen facility which opened earlier this week.

The facility, which is located in County Durham’s Barnard Castle, is funded by the Love Food project, which supports rural food producers in the North Pennine Dales.

It conceived the venture as a way to help small culinary firms see if their businesses are commercially viable and trial their offerings before investing in their own professional equipment.

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Hazel Coppack, director of Love Food, told Catering Insight that the £25,000 project was delivered by Tyne &Wear-based Upnorth Group.

“When it came to the quotation of the equipment we approached companies that we knew about or were given recommendations for and which were based around the locality as being a local project we wanted to it within the area.”

Coppack said Love Food worked closely with Upnorth director Tim Whitfield, who provided advice on what equipment the project could get for its budget.

The kitchen includes an electric combi, six burner gas hobs and double oven, freezer, blast chiller, double refrigerator, dishwasher, three sizes of food mixers, vacuum packer and microwave.

“We also had an extraction unit installed in the kitchen, which was an additional cost,” said Coppack.

She said businesses which wanted to use the facilities would have to pay a charge to cover the rent of the premises and the cost of utilities.

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