Well Dined

3Aug/152

Launch Pad Culinary Entrepreneur Competition

Last month, I wrote about a competition that I was invited to attend as a media person, and the breakfast meet and greet that went with it.  Well, the finale event of the competition was 3 weeks ago, and it was wonderful!  I apologize for the delay in writing about it, but 2 days after the event I flew to Texas to keep my mother company while she recovered from surgery, and I just got back!  So let's talk about this thing!

Well Dined | Launch Pad Finale

As I mentioned before, Launch Pad is a competition sponsored by Mess Hall, Ris, and Union Market to give culinary entrepreneurs a jump start.  The winner of the competition would take over the Ris stall in Union Market for 6 months.

Well Dined | Launch Pad Finale

I had never been to Union Market before this, so I got there early in order to wander around.  This place is so cool!  They were having a farmers market outside, with live music, and inside is a series of stalls with all kinds of food.  What a foodie dream!

Well Dined | Launch Pad Finale

I really wish that I lived closer to this market, because it is really cool.  I hope that you DC dwellers are appreciating this!

Well Dined | Launch Pad Finale

The Launch Pad event took place in Dock5 - the event space at Union Market.  It really is a big industrial loading dock that you can set up any way that you like for your event.

30Jun/150

Launch Pad Finalist Breakfast

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a breakfast in order to meet the finalists of the Launch Pad Culinary Entrepreneur Competition.  Before I tell you about that breakfast, I need to explain what it was for, and that may get a little convoluted - so stick with me!  Launch Pad is a competition sponsored by Mess Hall, Ris, and Union Market.

Union Market is a revitalized indoor market area and collection of restaurants near Gallaudet University in DC.  It opened in September 2012 and has about 40 shops.  There are plans to add multiple levels and expand it greatly to include retail, restaurants, hotel, entertainment, and incubator space for new food concepts, as well as wholesale space.

Mess Hall is the aforementioned incubator space for new food concepts, which opened in October 2014.  Their mission is to "support up-and-coming food entrepreneurs by providing commercial kitchens, combined with institutional knowledge and extraordinary opportunities."

Ris is a restaurant in DC that also has a satellite location in Union Market, it is owned/operated by chef Ris Lacoste.

Are you still with me?  Great!

Back to Launch Pad - it is a competition for food entrepreneurs to launch a concept in a quick service space in Union Market.  The winner of the Grand Prize will receive (according to the Launch Pad website):

  • 6 – 12 month opportunity to launch a dream concept using a built out space in a prime location at Union Market
  • Free Mess Hall membership
  • Full Service Restaurant Pop-up opportunity at Mess Hall’s event space
  • Mentorship from Ris Lacoste
  • Consultation on lease negotiations with master DC restaurateurs the Hilton Brothers
  • Business plan vetting and design services from EDENS
  • A luncheon organized with successful restaurant investors
  • And a growing list of unique prizes and opportunities courtesy of our event Sponsors.
  • PLUS – All finalists will have their knives sharpened by DC Sharp.

Pretty great, right?!  This is the second year for the competition, and last year the winner was Mason Dixie Biscuit Company.

You know what else is great? The list of judges and advisers for the finalists:

THE JUDGES

Al Goldberg – Founder, Mess Hall
David Hall – Investor, Revolution
Ris Lacoste – Chef / Owner, RIS
Drew Nieporent – Restaurateur, Myriad Restaurant Group
Patrick O’Connell – Chef / Owner, The Inn at Little Washington
Aaron Silverman – Chef / Owner, Rose’s Luxury
Audience Vote – Each member of the live audience will receive a single vote. The Audience Vote will count as 5% of the overall vote.

THE ADVISORS

Richie Brandenburg – Directory of Culinary Strategy, EDENS
Terrell Danley – Chef, DC Central Kitchen
Eric and Ian Hilton– Restaurateurs
Kathy Hollinger– President and CEO, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington
Eric Kessler – Founder / Managing Director, Arabella Advisors
Mike Lenard – Owner, Takorean, Former Head of the Food Truck Association
Winston Lord – Co-Founder, Venga
Spike Mendelsohn – Good Stuff Eatery, DC Food Policy Council Chair
Nick Stefanelli– Chef / Owner, Masseria

Now, let's talk about the finalists and the meet-and-greet breakfast event at Ris restaurant!  There were lots of bloggers and media people there, but plenty of opportunity to speak with the finalists individually.