As you may or may not know, our kickstarter campaign is live right now. Our goal is to build a much needed rentable commercial kitchen space in Toronto to help food producers bring their amazing products to the market. I wanted to give you a glimpse at some of the food producers that would benefit from a space like this and share with you their stories. Thanks to Mark Cirillo for taking the time to interview Evis and to write the great post below. For more information on Mark, click here.
How our commercial kitchen will help Evis Chirowamhangu keep her unique Zimbabwean pastries in the Toronto market.
Growing up with her eight siblings in the little town of Nyanga, Zimbabwe, Evis Chirowamhangu looked forward to a special treat her mother would buy for the family once a month, on payday.
It was a seemingly simple meat pie made with common spices like clove and nutmeg, but years later when she immigrated to Canada, Evis could find nothing like in the Toronto market.
“This led me on a personal journey to recreate the taste I remembered from back home,” says Evis. “I did some research and spoke with my brother in Zimbabwe, and experimented with the recipe until I was able to get it right.” By the time she perfected the recipe and started sharing it with friends, Evis had decided to start her own company making the pastries. She would call it Mnandi, meaning “delicious” in her native language of Ndebele.
But she soon discovered a significant hurdle: “I learned that I couldn’t just make the pies in my own home and sell them. I needed to find a commercial kitchen to prepare and store the food.”
As she started searching for a suitable space, she learned there was a shortage of commercially certified kitchens in Toronto – not enough to meet the local food community’s growing needs.
Amongst the ones that were available, some were cost-prohibitive for small business, while others were only available during off-peak hours like nights and weekends.
With the help of Food Forward, a non-profit local food industry advocacy, she eventually found the west-end caterer whose kitchen she now uses to make pastries and store her supplies, but even today circumstances are far from ideal.
Evis lives near Victoria Park and Eglinton Ave E. The catering kitchen is located on the other side of the city at Dufferin and King St. Having to make that trip every time she sells her pies at a city market can add up to two hours of commute time to her day.
Weekends are the only time Evis can use the kitchen for preparing her pies, and because it’s an aging facility there have been problems with equipment breaking down, decreasing the supply of pies she can produce.
So it’s easy to see why Evis is looking forward to the launch of the Manning Canning Commercial Kitchen.
1. Located at Eglinton and Laird, it will save her at least an hour of commuting each day.
2. With its fully dedicated rental kitchen, there will be more flexibility for scheduling prep times.
3. And equipped with newer resources, there will be less risk of lost revenue due to equipment malfunction.
But just as importantly, there are also intangible benefits she anticipates with the launch of this new community hub.
“It’s the connecting,” she says, “the sharing stories and experience, and working together in the same space that enhances the local food community.”
To learn more about Mnandi Pies, visit their website at mnandipies.com
To learn about the Manning Canning Kickstarter campaign to build a commercial kitchen for the Toronto food community, click here.