This week, I had the honor of joining a tour of the soon-to-be-finished Fork Food Lab at 72 Parris St in Portland led by CEO Neil Spillane. They’ve received a lot of press lately, but if you haven’t heard about them yet, I’m here to tell you this will be one of Maine’s premier food businesses, having already won an award for innovation. I wanted a Tour De Fork so I could share with you some pictures of their progress and get a better idea of exactly what they will be doing and how it will intermingle with Portland’s vast food and beverage culture.
A “food incubator and tasting room”, Fork will serve as a location where all things food can take place. The central part of what they offer will be table spaces – nearly 50 of them – which food creators can rent on a month to month basis to develop, test, and cook their food. Are you a food truck or cart which needs prep and testing space? Maybe you’re a caterer who needs high end equipment to prepare meals which serve 100 people. Or maybe you’re a restaurant that needs extra room to create and test new menu items. Regardless of your plight, Fork Food Lab will have a space for you and provide just about everything you need short of knives.
While the idea of offering rental food creation space to Portland’s food makers is a pretty neat concept, what makes Fork stand out as unique in the US is the addition of the tasting room which will be a store where the food being made there can be sold immediately. While you’re browsing their selection, Gelato Fiasco’s new storefront will be staring at you and calling your name. GF will be serving their product while also offering classes on how to make the chilly treat. If you’re single, you may want to consider one of those classes for your first date with that cutie you just met online.
Spillane and his business partner Eric Holstein have left no stone unturned, with available meeting rooms, dry storage, and fridge and freezer space for clients. A dishwashing room will give everyone an area to clean up and a kitchen attendant will sanitize, organize, and accept food orders while renters aren’t there to accept the orders themselves. The floors will be loosely divided by food type with the upstairs focused on those making savory foods and downstairs will primarily include the bakers and sweet treat makers. The set-up of the building is very user friendly and renters will have access 24/7 on a full or part-time basis dependant upon which type of plan they choose.
Food creation and a store aren’t all that will be happening at the lab. Spillane made it clear that Fork will be a location where tastings, classes, lectures, and the like will take place. His intention is to bring people from near and far and get the community to participate in what they are offering. That’s where their new Kickstarter comes in. Because the tasting room will focus heavily on bringing people together, Fork is campaigning to raise money – $30,000 to be exact – from the community to make it as awesome as they possibly can. The more money raised, the better and more functional the room will be. After about a week, they’re already more than half way there. Rumor has it that if they raise $1 million, there will be an area where robots will provide foot massages, though I was unable to confirm that.
If you’re interested in donating money via their kickstarter, click on the link below. They’re offering some great rewards in exchange for a little cash and you’ll be donating to something that will contribute to Portland’s food scene growing even larger than it is now. I’m confident that some of the best and brightest chefs in Maine and likely the entire country will be making their way through Fork Food Lab at some point. And their tasting room will be an opportunity to try some of their food before it’s available anywhere else. Now that’s something to chew on!
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