Table Talk: Urban Chefs

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Anthony Frazier and Keith Griffea want to expand their product line as well as opportunities for those looking to get into the packaged-foods business.

The owners of Urban Chefs -- producer of a line of barbecue sauce, hot sauce and spice mixtures -- have taken over the former CaJohn's Fiery Foods space in the Linden area. The place eventually will become an industrial kitchen where others can make their own products by leasing the space by the hour, day or on a permanent basis.

"We hope to be able to help other people out and get started because we know how it is to go around and find manufacturing space," Frazier said.

The facility, at 2040 Oakland Park Ave., should be open to others in a month or so. Renters will have access to stoves, kitchens and freezers, as well as storage space. It will be ideal for food entrepreneurs looking to make everything from salad dressing to cookie dough to pasta sauce.

The two men got started several years ago when Griffea owned a barbecue place on the West Side. Their sauce was such a hit they decided to mass produce it. They eventually got in touch with John Hard, the owner of CaJohn's, who recently moved his company to Westerville. He helped them develop their signature style.

"He's been my mentor for the last six years," Frazier said.

Urban Chefs now has various food vendors selling their goods across they state. Locally, they're in Huffman's Market and Whole Foods.

Griffea said they would like to add such barbecue staples as smoked ham, turkey, ribs and bacon. They currently carry salad dressings, as well as canned tomatoes and green beans, all grown in St. Henry, Ohio.

Urban Chefs is an Ohio Proud Partner. "I can't stress how important it is for people to buy from manufacturers in Ohio," Frazier said.

For a time, Frazier and Griffea leased space in the Food Industries Center at Ohio State University, an 8,000-square-foot facility in Howlett Hall. The center's main focus is to help students do their research projects, but it is open to individuals and companies who want to develop their own lines of products, said Jayne Sholl, program coordinator for the center. Depending on the equipment that's used, the fee is $25 per hour to $1,500 a day. OSU makes people sign a contract that ensures that renters repair any damaged equipment and clean up after themselves.

Michael Jones, executive director of Local Matters, a nonprofit agency that is trying to create a local food system, said he's upbeat about the potential of the space as a manufacturing facility and distribution point.

"This piece that we're talking about here is one piece -- and one crucial piece -- in the development of a local system," he said. "And frankly, we do need more of them, and we need to figure out where they need to be."

For more information about Urban Chefs, call Frazier at 614-257-1699.