Street Food Institute breaks ground on Barelas Central Kitchen

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There was a groundbreaking ceremony Friday at the site of what will soon be the Barelas Central Kitchen. It will be the new home for the Street Food Institute.

“We’re an entrepreneurial training program, we’re a nonprofit and we work with individuals who want to start their own small food business,” said Tina Garcia-Shams, executive director of the Street Food Institute.

The Barelas Central Kitchen will house commercial kitchens, culinary classrooms and office space that the public can use to start or expand a food business.

Garcia-Shams said the new space will allow them to help even more entrepreneurs.

“We’re in a really small space right now, we can serve about five entrepreneurs, but this is going to allow us to really grow – 20-25 businesses so we’re really excited about that,” she said.

Homewise, a local nonprofit developer, is teaming up with the Street Food Institute on the project that’s expected to create more than 50 jobs. Johanna Gilligan with Homewise said it will also give life to new local restaurants and eateries around the Barelas neighborhood and beyond – after many were forced to close during the pandemic.

“The economy is completely scrambled right now,” said Gilligan, the senior director of Community Development at Homewise. “The New Mexico Restaurant Association just came out with a study that says since 2019 we’ve lost 18% of food businesses statewide. That’s 1,100 food businesses, so you know, if we don’t want all of that to get gobbled up by McDonald’s or fast food restaurants, we need to help entrepreneurs get started. I think there’s tons of interest and tons of pent up capacity and demand that we’re excited to serve.”

If all goes as planned, construction on the Barelas Central Kitchen should be finished in about 12 months.