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Behind the scenes with five up-and-coming food concepts being refined in Catapult Kitchen and a look at the success of an alum.

From a diminutive basement area to an expansive professional workspace, the evolution of Catapult’s Kitchen Incubator is nothing short of remarkable. It mirrors the Incubator entrepreneurs’ transformations of raw-ingredient culinary ideas and passion into delicious meals shared with friends. Kitchen Director Maggie Leach tells us how the Incubator works as its members share their most distinctive creations with us.

You’re much more likely to sit across from your favorite people and eat this scrumptious food because the Catapult Kitchen Incubator exists. Even with incredible cuisine, the difficulty of the traditional restaurant business path is proverbial; getting one’s painstakingly prepared and crafted product in front of hungry patrons after start-up, maintenance, staff, marketing, and inevitable mistake-and-adjustment costs is daunting.

But the 5,000 square-foot Incubator, which currently houses 30 members with capacity for 50, bridges that treacherous gap from concept to consumption for its culinary entrepreneurs. In addition to offering commercial equipment and 24/7 access for late/early food preparation, this side of Catapult, like its Workspace side, offers all those great benefits conducive to success: networking, collaboration and education - especially the demystification of food regulations. As Maggie explains, “There’s guidance on permitting, inspections, and accounting with the goal of each business having its own brick-and-mortar location - or being part of a manufacturing process - in six months to three years. This grows Lakeland’s culinary economy and provides Lakelanders with locally-sourced options.”

Maggie came to the first version of Catapult more than five years ago as she was writing a thesis on restaurant entrepreneurship at Southeastern University. The kitchen was barely 250 square feet - and the equipment was the entire offering. “At that time, members had to acquire their own permits,” Maggie says. 

But even those limitations didn’t hinder the Kitchen Incubator as the launchpad for Crumbles and Cream, Krazy Kombucha, Honeycomb Bread Bakers, The Salty Cow, No Guilt Baking Company, and Born & Bread Bakehouse. In its new form, the Incubator boasts Wafu, Asian Food Mart, and Whisk the Sweet Bakeshop.

There will surely be many more to join Lakeland’s culinary pantheon from Catapult’s Kitchen Incubator. Here’s a visual foretaste of the incredible food being crafted there right now. And there’s even better news: you don’t have to wait to try it. Visit catapultlakeland.com/events for a calendar of Kitchen Pop-Ups – a rotating line-up of Incubator members serve up their best creations from a window on the east side of the Catapult building near the Lakeland Station – there’s even covered outdoor seating. Now, feast your eyes!

Baking Brewer

Meghin Magliano

What’s your culinary background?

I started out baking really young; I’d bake for weddings and parties but it was always just a hobby. But ultimately I wanted to experiment with baking which paired naturally with my other favorite hobby: beer.


Tell us about your culinary dream:

It’s the face…the face people make when they bite into something that is so insanely delicious that they lose control of all facial features. The face gets me every time. Baking and beer, separately, have always brought people together, to experience new flavors or to relive a memory. Combining the two initially, I think I just wanted to have fun, but really, both are luxuries that make people happy.


What’s important for eaters (and readers!) to know about your food?

Yes, my foods have beer in them. No, they will not make you drunk.


Vegetation Plant Foods

Rima Schillinger

What’s your culinary background?

I started cooking with my grandmom when I was quite small. I love bringing together friends and family around food. Food is love!


How long have you been pursuing this particular food business?

Vegetation is my first food venture. We started out of the Incubator about three years ago and are so grateful for the support we’ve received since that first day. Maggie is like my kitchen mom. She’s tireless in her efforts to educate us and nurture the growth of our culinary businesses.


Tell us about your culinary dream:

Eating well is a priority for many of us but often life gets in the way. We want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to incorporate healthful, vibrant meals into their everyday lives.


What’s important for eaters (and readers!) to know about your food?

We are a scratch kitchen making all of our sauces, dressings & marinades in house. By doing this we are able to limit the use of processed foods which are so often laden with preservatives, oils, sugar and salt. We are so happy to bring our customers fully plant based meals which are also mostly gluten free and free of processed oils.


Pinoy Cravings

Josephine Colorina and Jun Dobrea

WHAT’S YOUR CULINARY BACKGROUND?

I (Josephine) have always been a foodie, binge-watching cooking shows and experimenting in my kitchen although I have no professional background working in a restaurant. The dishes we created are inspired by the foods we grew up with. We add fusion to modernize it and make it relatable to others. On the other hand, Jun has worked in the food industry in several capacities. His food was inspired by his grandmother and her delicacies that he enjoyed growing up.


What’s important for eaters (and readers!) to know about your food?

Filipino cuisine has so much more to offer than lumpia, adobo, and pancit. We hope that through our food creations we can bring the community together: for
Lakelanders who’ve visited the Philippines and loved the cuisine and for Filipinos craving the tastes of home.


What’s your ultimate goal for this business, and what are the milestones you want to hit along the way?

Our ultimate goal is to have a brick and mortar where people could gather together around our food in the way we did back in the Philippines. We are excited to have our food trailer soon – it was made possible with a grant we won this year from the support of the Lakeland community.


Muffhens Bakery

Shana Henry

What’s your culinary background?

I taught myself to cook in college in order to prepare for the possibility of having a family and/or children. My creations are inspired by finding safe and delicious recipes for my family to consume and enjoy.


Tell us about your culinary dream:

More than 85 million Americans shop with allergies in mind and have to be conscious of what they eat either due to allergies and/or sensitivities; the number is up 11 percent year over year. There are more than 32 million Americans who have a very restricted diet due to life-threatening allergies and who struggle to find safe food options at schools, hospitals, hotels, sporting events, and so on. My dream is that there will be more products that are safe for consumption.


What’s important for eaters (and readers!) to know about your food?

There is a misconception that vegan and allergen-friendly foods are not palatable but Muffhens’ customers and reviews show clearly that this is not the case. Even those that are not into healthy eating and “alternatives” have enjoyed our products and given rave reviews.


Blue Dog Barbecue

Max Miller

We featured Blue Dog in our Made Issue in January 2021. The locals have certainly “made it,” evidenced by the fact they recently opened a storefront at The Joinery, which is currently open on weekends.


What’s your food background?

Cooking has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I have zero restaurant experience and I don’t use any hand-me-down recipes. 


Why do you have this culinary dream?

I love to show people what real BBQ is supposed to be.


What’s important for eaters (and readers!) to know about your food? 

If we don’t make it, we don’t sell it.


What’s your ultimate goal for this business?

We just opened up inside The Joinery! Come check us out! Thank you to everyone that has helped make this dream of mine come true!


Omusubee

Ana Imai

What’s your culinary background?

I co-owned a Chinese restaurant in Brazil. I was born and raised in Brazil, which has the largest Japanese community outside Japan. In Japanese culture, onigiri is not a type of sushi. It is a triangle-shaped ball of pillowy japonica rice, seasoned with salt and various kinds of savory fillings.


What’s important for eaters (and readers!) to know about your food?

There are many ways to present onigiri and ours is conbini style onigiri. We package our onigiri using a wrapper that keeps the seaweed separated from the onigiri. The seaweed stays fresh and crispy. We bring the seaweed from Chiba Prefecture in Japan. And there is a very interesting way to unwrap it. It is a cultural experience.


What’s your ultimate goal for this business?

We hope to make onigiri accessible to all with our own production facility.


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