Aspiring restaurant owners have a home to test their dishes - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Aspiring restaurant owners have a home to test their dishes

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Have you heard of a kitchen incubator? It's a place for chefs with dreams of opening their own restaurants to test their ideas before breaking out on their own. A new incubator has opened up in Burlington.

Opening a restaurant can be tricky and expensive, so this local joint has made it its mission to help chefs looking to start their own businesses get a foot in the door.

After working as a professional chef for 15 years, Jeff Egan says he's looking to start his own restaurant and is using a new "incubator kitchen" at ArtsRiot in Burlington to test out his menu and to see if it sticks before branching out on his own.

"It's awesome. It's really nice to have an opportunity to bring to the table my food without anyone else's vision," said Egan.

The mix of food, music, and art is located on Pine Street. Owners say it was created for people just like Egan, who are looking for a chance to make their longtime dreams of opening a restaurant come true.

"I've been really lucky to work with some great restaurateurs in the state and it's always been a dream of mine to have my own restaurant. ArtsRiot is the incubator for that dream," Egan said.

Co-owners Felix Wai and P.J. McHenry say this concept all started as a blog highlighting local food and art happenings in the neighborhood. But they said earlier this year they wanted to make their website a reality. After purchasing the former Fresh Market building, the team renovated the space to meet the needs of chefs and customers have been coming steadily through the doors ever since.

"You order at the counter, take a seat, and we run the food right out to you -- business as usual. The way that it's different, is every night there is a different menu and a different chef," McHenry said.

"You can come for dinner, you can come for a drink, you can come for an event, you can come to see the art -- we just have a multi-functional space," Wai said.

ArtsRiot currently has six local chefs who have their one night to shine at the restaurant. Egan says he has the passion to open his own eatery, but didn't have the space to get started, until now.

"With this, like this infrastructure is the biggest barrier to getting to a restaurant. So I think the most awesome thing about this is having all this infrastructure, walking in, bringing ingredients and being able to have a restaurant five hours later," said Egan.

The chefs bring their own ingredients and pay ArtsRiot a small percentage of their sales to use the kitchen space and showcase their food. But Egan says even if he breaks even to cover his costs the value of gaining a customer base is worth it.

"Their food is really fantastic, and it's great to come down and check out the different chefs that are working on the different days and just check out different food that is going on here," said Beth Robinson, a diner.

ArtsRiot also has an event space and art gallery. Chef Egan says he is learning a lot about his menu and running a restaurant. He says he hopes to open his own place in about a year.

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