Friday, April 27, 2012

INNA Jam Celebrates New (Allergen-Free!) Kitchen

By Luke Tsai
Fri, Apr 27, 2012 at 3:38 PM

In this golden age of pop-up restaurants and specialized small-scale artisan food makers, commercial kitchen space is as hot a commodity as it’s ever been. So in a small, 500-square foot kitchen, you might find one guy smoking a batch of pastrami, someone else straining fresh cheese, and yet another person pickling some radishes and carrots — one after the other, or sometimes side by side.

It’s a wonderful tribute to our diverse food economy — but for people with serious food allergies, for whom one tiny smidge of dairy or nut might be a matter of life or death? It’s a nightmare.

Enter INNA Jam’s Dafna Kory. Fresh off a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly $28,000 to equip her newly-leased commercial kitchen in Emeryville, the jam maker is celebrating the long-awaited shift from having to rent out a workspace to having a place of her own.

Before, she and her employees were “like gypsies,” Kory explained. Her business was spread out across about five different places — one to cook, one to store the products, one to serve as an office space, and so forth.

Perfect for jam-stirring.
  • Perfect for jam-stirring.
Now that she has her own digs, she’s able to consolidate all of those functions at her new 61st Street location. I had the opportunity to visit the kitchen earlier this week, and, though it’s still a work in progress, I was impressed by the space — tricked out as it was with shiny stainless steel work tables, fancy convection ovens, and six low-standing gas ranges (the perfect height for jam-stirring, Kory explained).

At the same time, Kory says she still plans on sharing the love — on making the commercial kitchen available to other makers of artisan food products. The difference, she says, is that her kitchen will be contamination-free and allergen-free. It’ll be reserved for the preparation of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices — nothing else. No meat, no nuts, no dairy, no gluten.

“People with allergies were always asking if there’s dairy in the kitchen,” Kory explained.

Before she could never guarantee that there wasn’t. Now she can.

And so the first artisan food makers to rent out kitchen space from Kory include a pickle maker and a tea brewer.

The Express first featured INNA Jam in last year’s story on “recession-era entrepreneurs,” which recounted Kory’s 2010 decision to transition from a career as a video editor to one as a jam maker — one who personally delivered all her goods, oh so quaintly, by bicycle, no less. At the time, Kory was hopeful that INNA Jam’s success would allow her to eventually quit video work altogether.

The new kitchen brings her one step closer to full-time jam-making, as Kory expects she’ll be able to step up production. That way, INNA Jam’s most popular flavors — strawberry and apricot — might not sell out early, as they have the past two years.

Oh, and the jams? For the record, they’re delicious. Kory hopes to start production at her new facility by the middle of next month, when local strawberries will be approaching their peak.

Dafna Kory, of INNA Jam
  • Dafna Kory, of INNA Jam

Got tips or suggestions? Email me at Luke (dot) Tsai (at) EastBayExpress (dot) com. Otherwise, keep in touch by following me on my (brand spankin’ new) Twitter account, @theluketsai, or simply by posting a comment. I'll read ‘em all.


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