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January 03, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Real Good Kitchen secures $50,000 grant to develop plan for remaining space

Christmas came a little early for Bailey Foster and the team at Real Good Kitchen.

Just days before Christmas, we caught up with the force behind Knoxville’s shared kitchen and food entrepreneurship hub Real Good Kitchen, located on Magnolia Avenue just a few blocks east of the downtown area. The two buildings that serve RGK total about 7,000 square feet, and RGK’s current operation uses just a little more than one-half of the space. Roughly 2,500 square feet comprise the kitchen area while 1,100 square feet are used for storage.

From the outset, Foster’s plan was to use the front part of the space as a multi-purpose venue that could support the RGK educational offerings, cooking classes, a planned food incubator, and possible retail. Now, thanks to a $50,000 grant through the Opportunity Appalachia program, she has funding to actually develop a full architectural plan ahead of seeking additional funding to implement that plan.

“It’s a game-changer,” Foster says. “We are delighted to receive it.”

As she prepares to celebrate RGK’s second full year of operation, she says the success the shared facility has enjoyed “proves our proposition has value.”

We first spotlighted Foster in this October 2018 teknovation.biz article where she shared her model for what she wanted to accomplish in her hometown. By then, she had spent more than a year championing her vision for something in Knoxville along the lines of La Cocina in San Francisco but tailored to the local market.

After four years of dreaming, researching, planning, fundraising, building, inspections, and other challenges, RGK officially opened its doors at 2004 East Magnolia Avenue on January 8, 2021.

“We envision greater equity, opportunity, and financial security for more people through food business ownership,” Foster writes on the RGK webpage. “Together, we build community, grow businesses, create jobs, and strengthen our local food system. We share a kitchen that welcomes everyone and values diverse capabilities, talents, and traditions. We nurture a community through the common language of food.”

Now, with RGK’s second anniversary looming next week, Foster says the facility has served 65 different businesses in the nearly 24-month period.

“Our number of active members ebbs and flows throughout the year,” she says, but typically is between 35 and the low 40s.