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Abandoned homes will transform to help west Louisville entrepreneurs test restaurant concepts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Chef Space has helped launch dozens of food businesses dreamed up by west Louisville entrepreneurs, but the program is taking them one step further.

Chef Space, a community food incubator in west Louisville helping local entrepreneurs launch their food related businesses, recently received a $30,000 grant from the Gheens Foundation to continue its mission.

"I wouldn't be where I am right now without Chef Space," said Kristel Allen, who serves 84 clients each week at Kristel's Keto Ktichen. "Chef Space is helping me get to that dream."

She grew the business in the Chef Space kitchen and hopes to open her own food truck someday. 

"This grant is really going to go to support training, technical assistance, guidance, coaching and the facility itself," said Jessica Morgan, president of Chef Space President. That includes improving the kitchen space, providing educational courses and giving more businesses hands-on experience.

"It's just showing the commitment of Gheens Foundation to support development in west Louisville, and really what that translates to is supporting the people of Russell and west Louisville," Morgan said. 

Ernst Pierre cooks up amazing Caribbean food in the Chef Space kitchen and said the business training he's received has been invaluable. 

"It's really helped me figure out what the cost would like if I do get into a brick and mortar," Pierre said. 

It takes a big leap to go from working in the Chef Space kitchen to working on your own. 

"We wanted to provide that middle step before that had to take that big leap," Morgan said.

Louisville Metro Government, OneWest and Community Ventures have partnered to transform two abandoned houses and a vacant lot in the Russell neighborhood into restaurant spaces. The spaces will rotate restaurant concepts from Chef Space entrepreneurs. 

"To be able to test out their concept and have an opportunity to really work out their kinks," Morgan said.

The re-zoning process is already underway. It takes a couple months, but Chef Space and OneWest are hoping to have a concept operating in one of the homes by the end of the year. 

Project leaders believe this new experience will give local entrepreneurs the support they need to succeed out on their own. 

"The dream is an actual restaurant or a storefront," Pierre said. 

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