Ever eaten at a food truck? Many people have, and many in Birmingham will continue to do so, thanks to Haden Smith and his team at The Annex Culinary Incubator.
Food truck owners in Birmingham are required to have a brick and mortar store front, as well as a commercial kitchen to prepare their food.
These areas are called commissary kitchens, and they are in high demand in Birmingham. That is where Smith comes in. Smith is opening The Annex, a commissary kitchen that can host between eight and 12 clients.
Smith and his team set a goal for this project to “take smaller businesses in at a lower barrier of entry, as opposed to a commercial lease, in hopes that they can graduate to a commercial lease.” Smith says he hopes The Annex can help people and make their process of owning a food truck easier than his was.
The Annex was an accident of sorts, says Smith, who is its executive director. “We came to this building looking to buy a food truck,” he says, but before they left he was trying to buy the Tillman-Levenson Annex building.
The Annex’s kitchen runs on a rotating schedule, so when one food truck leaves another comes in. This allows the commissary kitchen to accommodate many more chefs than a traditional commercial kitchen.
Many exciting things have already happened at The Annex — and many more are set to come. Not only does the venue already have a space available for events and small parties, but Smith and team are in the process of expanding event capabilities.
Most recently, The Annex hosted Kyoto Yakitori for a pop-up dinner. Kyoto Yakitori is a Birmingham-based restaurant that serves authentic Japanese street food. Two dozen people reserved seats through the restaurant’s Facebook page.
In addition to adding more event space, The Annex plans to add more commissary kitchen space and a bakers kitchen.
Affordable bakers kitchens are in high demand for a couple of reasons. First, there are a high number of bakers looking for a space to work. Second, they require less equipment, and work to install that equipment, than the other commercial kitchens, therefore making them less expensive to rent, Smith says.
“I’m excited about adding a baker’s kitchen because it means that we are going to be able to have a baker in here full time, rather than just on rotation,” he says.