John Mudd worked at The College of Urban Planning in Chicago but had started to get involved with the local food movement when he and his wife Sarah decided to move back to Louisville, his hometown.
In 2011, a year after the Mudds returned to Louisville, they launched Louisville Farmer’s Market with several locations around town. But Mudd’s eyes light up when he talks about his other business, Kytchen.
The Mudds opened Kytchen, a shared professional kitchen space located in Bluegrass Industrial Park, in 2012. The Mudds are both passionate about food and felt it was easier to take the financial risk of starting this business in Louisville than it would have been in Chicago. Sarah handles the marketing and long-range plans for the business – while also working full-time for the education nonprofit Ounce of Prevention; John is the people person, the smiling face that greets and works closely with each of their tenants.
Mudd says that for some of his clients, cooking or baking is a side project while for others it is the beginning of a new business. Many of Mudd’s clients need a professional space to create their products without the expense and risk of opening a storefront.
“Some people are new and aren’t trained chefs. For the most part, at least 60 percent are trained chefs, if I had to guess, and 20 percent have cooked in restaurants. The rest are just taking their passion to the next level,” he says.
Mudd encourages all of the chefs at Kytchen. “I want to see them all expand and grow. They’re doing something that’s their dream so you want to see them succeed.”
Five to six times a year, Mudd organizes a meeting of all of the caterers.
“It’s kind of like a community. They care about each other and give each other advice.”
Mudd believes a willingness to collaborate and accept advice is a measure of success for the chefs. “The chefs who are open to listening to directions from experts, and have good attitudes, seem to thrive better.”
With Derby just around the corner, several chefs at Kytchen are seeing a boost in consumer interest and sales.
For instance, Maggie Jones and Ramey Deats of The Sugar Mamas Bakeshop have developed a new product in collaboration with distiller Pappy Van Winkle’s web store Pappy and Co. Sugar Mamas had been making Bourmint Balls, chocolate mint cake balls dipped in white chocolate and bourbon, as their Derby offering when the owners of Pappy and Co. approached in December about making a more traditional bourbon ball using Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.
“They wanted something handmade and not mass-produced,” Jones says as she hand-dips each ball into a mug of melted chocolate, removes it with a toothpick, and gingerly places a bourbon-soaked pecan on top.
The products, Jones explains, are different from your average bourbon balls because she and Deats use all natural ingredients, pre-tempered dark chocolate that has a long shelf life for shipping the products, and of course, the Pappy brand bourbon.
“I think the biggest draw is the bourbon. It’s the [Old] Rip Van Winkle 10 Year. People are nuts over that stuff. The bourbon is so hard to find, these [bourbon balls] are a great gift for people who are lovers of the Pappy brand and the bourbon. If you can’t get your hands on a bottle, then this is a good way to give it.”
Jones and Deats met three years ago at a play date with their children. They had both dabbled with baking birthday cakes when they decided to team up and start Sugar Mamas. While the two chefs primarily bake special event cakes for showers and first birthday parties, they are focusing their attention on bourbon balls until Derby season is over.
You can find Jones and Deats at Kytchen most Fridays working at the table in the front of the space while Indian chef Bhavana Barde clangs pots with her sous chefs on the stove behind the partition.
Jones smiles thinking about her shared space at Kytchen. “This place is awesome. It gives people an opportunity to put your toe in the water and follow your culinary dreams, and see if you want to continue.”
When asked if she has plans to explore her own space or storefront, Jones replies, “For us right now, this is perfect. I can still do this while my kids are little and have the flexibility of having my own business.”
Sugar Mama’s baked goods, cookie mixes, and assorted baking supplies and wearables can be found on their website and through Pappyco.com. The chefs are also selling their bourbon balls at The Fashion Post, Cartwheels, and Circe/ Swags. Their cookie mixes can be found at Paul’s Fruit Market and Rainbow Blossom.
Another chef who is seeing a spike in Derby sales is Chrissy Singer, owner and chef at Christina Bakes. Singer specializes in European-style pastries, including bourbon pecan pies, bourbon pecan chocolate, nut tortes, and her specialty: brioche donuts and pastries.
Singer is passionate about her brioche products. “It’s a really light dough and it’s really versatile. You can make it into donuts, you can make it into cinnamon rolls by changing the fillings. You can turn it into five different products. So it’s great for me as a business owner. And it’s very light because you make it with a lot of butter, but because it’s made with yeast, it’s very, very light.” Singer describes the dough as fluffy, which surprises people who expect the heavy dough of a typical donut.
“It’s like a puff pastry.”
Singer is a native Louisvillian who moved back to town last September after completing her culinary arts degree at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. She opened her business in November and soon after contacted Mudd about renting space at Kytchen.
“I started talking to her last fall,” Mudd says, “but she wanted everything planned before launching.” Singer just began working at Kytchen this April.
Singer’s parents are European, part-Czech and part-Slavic, and she realized when she moved back to town that nobody in Louisville specialized in European pastries the way that she makes them.
For Derby, Singer is baking tarts and tartlets as well as toffee and Derby-style bourbon pies. Derby orders are picking up regardless of the fact that Singer has not formally marketed her products. Her business has spread through her tastings at Paul’s Fruit Market on Brownsboro Road and through word of mouth.
“It’s amazing to sit back and let it happen, but at the same time I feel like I make a really good product and I think it speaks for itself. And people that have lived here their entire life know about Louisville bakeries, and know what they can produce, so when they see something new, they’re like, ‘Hey, where’d you get that?’ They know it’s something different they haven’t seen around town before. So that’s great. Nobody at Paul’s had ever seen a brioche donut the way I made them and they were really drawn to that.”
Mudd encourages the chefs at Kytchen to give away samples and do tastings like Singer, Jones and Deats. “Samples are a great way to market,” he agrees. He also effuses about Singer’s brioche, “They’re so delicious.”
While Singer is new to Kytchen, she is looking forward to collaborating with the other chefs. Right now, she is a one-woman shop producing the pastries and chocolates, packaging, and marketing all on her own, but she hopes to hire help with the baking soon. She found Kytchen through online research. She knew she needed to find a professional kitchen, according to Kentucky law, but wasn’t interested in restaurant work.
“I was looking for a place on its own and then I met the owner [Mudd] and he was so nice. And I like that I have it to myself when I go in. I have the whole kitchen. I start it clean and I finish it clean. That’s how I want to bake.”
You can find Singer’s products on her website, at Paul’s, and she also makes appearances at William Sonoma at The Mall in Saint Matthews. She hopes to distribute through retail soon.
Kytchen will be expanding into a second space soon; however, Mudd did not have the final details at the time of this interview. He is hoping to turn over the management of the farmer’s markets to someone else so that he can focus his attention on Kytchen. Mudd truly seems more excited about what this expansion means for his chefs than for himself.
“While it’s a business, it’s all about the people.”