If Willy Wonka made sandwiches instead of candy, says Tom Brossart, he might have started “Food Building.”
But instead it was the real-life Kieran Folliard, of Kieran’s Irish Pub fame, whose eyes began to twinkle at the idea of an artisanal sandwich factory. You don’t need a golden ticket to see with your own eyes how Red Table Meat Co. processes its pork. Or Baker’s Field Flour and Bread Co. baking wheat and rye loaves. Both entrepreneurial food companies live under one roof in a 26,000-square foot industrial space in northeast Minneapolis.
Brossart gets word, image and video of Food Building’s food making out to the world via the Internet.
“There’s a really strong history in several cultures of dry-curing meats and aging cheeses and stone-milling flour and baking naturally leavened bread,” says Brossart. “The innovative part is connecting that legacy to as many people as possible in our
In three short years, the meat and cheese products of Food Building have found a national consumer base. Seeing how the food is made is a key part of that.
Even if you are stopping in to the Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for a sandwich made with Red Table’s savory salami, you can visit FoodBuilding.com on your phone and take the virtual tour designed by Brossart. Winding your way through the building’s hallways and stairs until your screen shows the view through plate glass windows, you can watch Mike Phillips and his team of expert butchers take apart a pig.
Or, if you are in the neighborhood, you can catch the show in person.
“It’s more than some people bargain for,” laughs Jen Wagner-Lahr, senior director of innovation and commercialization for AURI. AURI did not work directly with Food Building or its companies, but many Minnesota food entrepreneurs find their way to AURI’s food scientists and project staff.
The theme of Food Building is: “Farmed near, made here!” according to Brossart, a fitting motto for the rising local farm-to-table food movement.
“Food Building is part of something bigger going on in the Twin Cities and across Minnesota,” says Lahr. “It’s a dynamic environment, a whole new entrepreneurial food ‘ecosystem’ where connections and conversations are creating new things all the time. At AURI, we are excited to see these developments and be a part of this conversation. It really facilitates delivery of our services, to be able to work in a ‘connected community’—one that leverages what everyone else is offering.”
The foundation for craft food innovation in Minnesota is its nation-leading grocery coop scene. With more than forty different food coops dotting the state from Moorhead to Albert Lea, food crafters have unparalleled access to a consumer audience hungry for what they are providing. Minnesota has nearly twice as many food coops as either New York or California. The coops make a point of devoting shelf space in a way that spotlights food entrepreneurs, says Wagner-Lahr.