Ingredients for success

The average restaurant works with 300 ingredients. Most of them do not rate being included in a menu description by a creative chef. The ones that do are usually worthy of details that reflect their origin, heritage, style, taste or other unique characteristic. One might say the ingredients have to earn their way on to the menu. It becomes the chef’s responsibility to seek out – “source” is the fashionable term these days – not only the foodstuffs themselves but their story. We who dine out want to know more about the journey each part that makes up the whole takes to get to the kitchen.

And once again we are in the lead in Rhode Island.

“Local is the hottest trend in the food industry,” said Lisa Raiola, president and founder of Hope & Main, the ultra-successful kitchen space and “incubator” for startup food purveyors, now among the largest in the country.

Hope & Main did not take long to put itself on the state’s food map. Last fall, two of the food companies incubating in Warren found themselves as finalists for Martha Stewart’s American Made Awards. The Fox Point Pickling Co., along with The Biggest Little Popcorn Co., received national attention. Then in January of this year, The Backyard Food Co.’s Rhode Island Red Relish was chosen as an ingredient in the burger-chain Smashburger’s rollout of a commemorative Rhode Island Burger, when it opened its first Rhode Island restaurant.

- Advertisement -

Nationally, a surprising statistic comes from the American Communities Trust: According to a recent study, Hope & Main is in the top 10 percent of incubator facilities nationally as measured by kitchen space, staffing, members and revenue.

Buoyed by the success of the events for consumers, Hope & Main is branching out. In the nonprofit’s evolution, it is itself moving from a nursery for fledgling food artisans to a representative for their businesses.

Hope & Main is hosting a trade event to invite professionals in the retail and food-service industry to Warren on May 19. There they will have the opportunity to meet more than 25 emerging food entrepreneurs, sample their specialty foods, place wholesale seasonal orders on discount and tour Hope & Main’s facility.

Hope & Main has launched over 70 businesses since opening in the fall of 2014. Already the economic impact is measureable. According to the state Office of Food Protection of the Rhode Island Department of Health, of the 945 new food-business licenses issued in Rhode Island since January 2015, 4.3 percent are Hope & Main businesses. Of new food-processing licensees, 8.7 percent are Hope & Main businesses. And of the 103 new food businesses domiciled in Rhode Island licensed in the past year, 39.8 percent are Hope & Main businesses.

In the past year, Hope & Main has also incubated international startups, including Tom’s BaoBao, as well as Belgian-based food-giant Royal Ahold NV – parent company of The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. – which utilized Hope and Main for a domestic project.

Dozens of buyers and industry professionals are expected to attend the trade event to take advantage of one-on-one meetings with the food entrepreneurs, as well as wholesale discounts available at the show. Buyers will interact with top-selling Hope & Main artisans, such as Fox Point and Backyard, as well as emerging purveyors such as Ocean State Smoked Fish Co.

The fledgling businesses getting their start at Hope & Main are in the ingredient business. While their products are created, prepared and sold to be consumed as is, the state’s chefs, both amateur and professional, are finding they are important and unique parts of creations that make for one-of-a-kind dining experiences. •

Bruce Newbury’s Dining Out talk radio show is heard on 920 WHJJ-AM, 1540 WADK-AM and on mobile applications. He can be reached by email at

No posts to display