Food doesn’t get much fresher than the products created at Tim and Karen Shea’s Suntree Commissary Kitchen. The couple began making their crock style cheese spreads seven years ago and started the commissary kitchen in 2007. “It was silly for us to have all of this space and not having it be used,” says Karen. “We advertised space in our kitchen for more than a year before anyone expressed interest. When the economy started going bad people started calling.” Today more than a dozen entrepreneurial chefs use the kitchen. “ It just goes to show that when bad things happen (like an economic downturn), goods things can come out of it. This has become very much a give and take set of relationships. The people who cook here are as passionate about what they are doing as we are.”
In addition to having a licensed kitchen, tenants receive the Shea’s invaluable expertise. “We know what we went through. This is what life should be about. We should all help each other. Salsa maker Mary Daugherty was one of their first tenants. She says, “there’s a lot of energy here. We all get to learn from one another’s experiences. Everyone has certain strengths and everyone here is genuinely trying to help all of us be successful.”
Food prepared at the kitchen is a varied as the people who create it. “We have one woman here who is 81 years old and used to be a personal chef for Gregory Peck and Diana Ross”, says Karen. Louise Bercelli “makes delicious quiche.”
Some tenants are cooking full time and others have kept their “day jobs.” The kitchen is inspected twice a year while Individual cooks make arrangements for their own inspections. Each cook gets their own key and “can come and go as they please,” says Tim. One rule is unbreakable. “If you cook, you clean. Leave everything the way you found it.”
The couple will accommodate as many entrepreneurial chefs as they can in the space they have remaining and Karen hopes to have a centralized marketplace for their products. “I want to open a store featuring all locally made products, including the food made here.” For this couple, it’s all a labor of love, because, as Karen says, “we love good food.”
Tim and Karen’s kitchen is home to several entrepreneurial cooks creating a variety of foods. “They’re always asking me to sample their stuff,” says Karen, “I don’t think my waistline can take too much more-it’s all so good.”
Darlene’s Italian Treats
“My mother taught us how to cook and carry on the Italian traditions,” Darlene Corrigan says. “When we were young we learned the cookies that were in the bakery box were for special occasions. Those are the kind of cookies I make.”
Among Darlene’s offerings are various flavored Biscotti, Italian Rainbow and Pignoli cookies and Casatta Cake. Prices vary. Call 516-978-8345 for information.
Heidi’s Pepper Jelly
Until she became ill, Heidi Beasley’s pepper jellies were popular at Space Coast gourmet markets for several years. Today, this breast cancer survivor is back, stronger than ever, with a variety of sweet/spicy jellies that are great for grilling and garnishing. $5.96 for 12 ounce jars in a variety of flavors including blackberry-jalapeno and pineapple habanera. www.heidispepperjelly.com
Mary’s Downtown Salsa
After winning the People’s Choice award at last year’s Fiesta Brevard, Mary Daugherty took the plunge and became officially licensed to sell the salsa her friends had been raving about. “I’ve been making salsa for 18 years. This is the result of experimenting with a lot of different recipes I tried after visiting restaurants and never finding a salsa I really liked.” Available in mild and medium. www.marysdowntownsalsa.com
Joan’s Perfect Pies
Growing up in Michigan, Joan Flavin says in the summertime there were always a lot of berries and cherries. What better to do with nature’s bounty than put them in pies? “Then I didn’t bake pies for a long time, but this summer I got the bug to make them again. They seem to make people really happy-everybody loves pie.” Flavors include apple, cherry, blueberry, key lime and coconut cream. Sizes and prices vary. www.joansperfectpie.com
Candice Chapman says she’s “always been a creative person. Between that, my love of food and my love of sweets, making cakes is just the perfect combination.” Whether it’s her “Chocolate Coma” confection. Pina Colada cake or a cake specifically created for a client, Candice says she has the perfect cake for every occasion. Sizes and prices vary. www.candyliciouscakes.com
Marjorie Johnson moved to Brevard last year from Chicago and decided to “keep it simple.” The former restaurant owner is focusing on bakery items because “they were what I started with and homemade bakeries are becoming a thing of the past.” Although she’s had requests to create lower calorie versions, “they’re never the same. Good desserts are meant to be an indulgence. If you can’t have that once in awhile, life’s not worth living.” Custom cookie, cake and creative baking. Call 321-305-2828
44 Wing Sauce
Ken Michaels and his wife Joanie make their medium and hot wing sauces using only pure Florida honey. “It makes it sweet and spicy at the same time.” Ken developed his recipe after working at a restaurant where people “came in droves for the wings and that sauce wasn’t anything special. So I started experimenting.” The sauce is “cholesterol free and a good source of vitamins A and C.” www.444wingsauce.com
Adirondack Mountain Fudge
While in the tourist railroad business near Lake George, NY, Tim Record discovered that fudge “is a good seller wherever large numbers of people gather.” His fudge “just took over our online gift store” and today he makes more than 30 different flavors, including the hard to find Penuchi fudge made with brown sugar. “The first fudge ever created, it was more than likely a culinary accident. You really don’t see it too much anymore.” www.afudge.com
Katie Fredericks used to be “the girl who always brought a cheesecake to the party, my friends all said I should make some money doing it. Since I started, business has just exploded.” Katie’s cheesecake was featured at this year’s PREVENT! Jamboree. “I like the fact that I can help some non profits and the community by doing something I love.” $30 for a 10” cake in a variety of flavors (“Heath Bar Crunch is the most popular”) www.cheeskates.com
The Soup Shop
“Cooking for me is a hobby that got a little out of control,” says Julie Shipley. “For the first 15 years we were married I didn’t cook at all.” When he’s in town Julie enlists the assistance of husband Phillip to create a variety of boil-in-bag soups. Her soup is featured at more than two- dozen area restaurants “Soup fits every occasion. My Italian wedding Soup is probably the most popular, but I love experimenting with new flavors and my favorite to make is cheese soup. Sold in half and full gallon boil in bags. 321-243-1857
TCS Foods-Crock Style Cheese Spreads
Kitchen owners Tim and Karen Shea began selling their gourmet cheese spread locally seven years ago. Available in flavors ranging form cheddar blue and cheddar pepperoni to spinach carrot and herb (pumpkin spice is available on a seasonal basis) the couple works well together, “He mixes then I scoop and label” says Karen. $4 for 8 ounces; $7 for 16 ounces. Available at Downtown Produce, Green Turtle and the Produce Place.
So You Think You Can Cook?
Almost everyone has a special recipe they think might be marketable. The reality is that putting your product on store shelves requires time, perseverance, hard work and wading through some red tape.
Tim and Karen have been generous with their expertise in helping their tenants.
“The point is, everyone needs to do it right”, says Karen. “It’s just that most people don’t know what ‘right” is. What’s second nature to us is all new to them.
We try and help everybody.” Between the inspecting and licensing, rules and regulations as well as helping contact local sellers, “there’s a lot to keep up with.”
Tim says tenants need to:
-Contact the Florida Department of Agriculture for permitting
-Once they get their permit they “can take a copy of our lease to obtain a Brevard County Occupational License.”
-Get their food handlers certificate (a 4-hour class sometimes conducted at the kitchen)
-Tim will provide contact information to obtain nutritional facts (from an independent laboratory)
-Think about labeling for their product. “We’re trying to use local businesses and go in as a group to get a discount when ordering.”
-Have their product tested (anything bottled or jarred requires testing)
“It’s all about coming together to help each other”.
Love At First Bite
Karen Shea “was always getting invitations to product parties no one ever wants to go to, and spent the whole time I was there wishing they had food.”
So late last year she held her first Love At First Bite Party.
“I took samples of food, the guests tasted it, and then they ordered what they wanted. Everyone was so enthusiastic and loved the fact the food has no preservatives.”
During those first two parties “we had $1,200 in sales-considering most of the products are around $5, that’s a lot of food.”
The parties are designed to help their tenants, “because we don’t have a storefront (yet), so we’re always thinking of new ways to get our products to the people.”
Anyone interested in hosting a Love At First Bite party should contact Karen Shea at 321-759-3713 or Email: loveatfirstbite email@example.com
“I provide all the food samples, information and order forms. You provided the place, the guests, and any beverages you might want to serve.”
Karen asks for a minimum of 15 guests, “because it involves food and I don’t want to waste any.” Hostesses will receive special discounts depending on how much is sold at the party
Parties feature many of the product’s prepared at the Shea’s kitchen and some others including:
-Fresh Italian sauces from Abitino’s Specialties
-Assorted Hummus spreads prepared by Joy Foods
-Vinaigrettes and Pecans by Mangrove Island Gourmet Products
-Salad Dressings by Zen-Fully Good
-Cookies from the Skinny Bitch’s Cookie Company