Like a Santa’s Workshop for Foodies

Not at the North Pole, but in an Englewood warehouse, not elves, but cooks are hustling literally 24/7 to create great edible gifts. Under one roof (called Le Gourmet Factory), pies, popcorn, baked goods, candy apples and more are pouring forth from seven different commercial kitchens.

The business is the brainchild of Nick Prastos, 30, a 2001 graduate of the University of Connecticut with a degree in finance. A former Wall Street marketing man, he has worked in the United States and Hong Kong.

Throughout his childhood, Le Gourmet Factory’s Bergen County facility was home to his father’s furniture design factory. In 2010, when the furniture business changed from manufacturing to importing, the factory was no longer needed and Prastos came to his father with big plans.

“I pitched him the idea," he says, "to create a space where food entrepreneurs could come to one location and share in each other’s success and share in the expenses to lower the costs for everyone.”

The seven working kitchens—available for rent 24/7—opened for business in November 2012.

Now 50 clients are booking time in the kitchens. Some ideas are still in incubation, others are in full swing. Prastos’s goal is to have 200 companies using the space around the clock, with a single, online presence and eventually a Le Gourmet Factory culinary marketplace.

Each kitchen has a name: May Your Whisk Come True is designed for bakers, with a 30-quart mixer and two convection ovens. Home on the Range is perfect caterers who need a grill, griddle and fryer. Shared resources include refrigeration, secure dry storage, a dish room, a conference room, an IKEA-designed and Wi-Fi-equipped common room and a loading dock.

Additional services include “a team of chefs and food consultants who can provide business advice and essentially make this a destination for food entrepreneurs,” Prastos says. Clients often begin by taking Le Gourmet’s ABCs of Starting Your Own Food Business seminar.

The kitchens are certified by the Englewood Board of Health, with all workers required to attend a one-day, on-site workshop to earn a Servsafe food-handler’s certificate.

“The more time you book, the cheaper the rate,” Prastos says. Kitchen time ranges from $14 to $35 per hour.

There is also a handsome, 15-seat, teaching kitchen for hands-on classes taught by professionals. Subjects include Gluten-Free, Korean/American and Chocolate Lovers. Cooking camps for kids are available for the upcoming holiday break.

Instruction can be booked for private groups and business events as well. One charity has reserved all seven kitchens for a 2014 evening of chef demonstrations, tastings, cocktails and music.

“This whole building has gone from a factory to a foodie destination,” Prastos says.

 

Clients creating holiday gifts at Le Gourmet Factory this month include:

Pipsnacks: Gluten-free, vegan small-kernel popcorn. Holiday gift baskets.

Keep it Sweet: Bakery specializing in cookies and special event catering.

Lumpasugah: – Ten varieties of fruit, pumpkin and sweet potato pies.

Anna’s Gourmet Candy Apples: Dipped and decorated candy apples sold from a kiosk in the Menlo Park Mall.

Papillon Couture Cakes: Elegant custom cakes and desserts.

LGF Cooking School: Holiday gift cards for cooking classes.

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