And they don’t spoil the broth
14 cooks aren’t too many in Old Town start-up business’ shared kitchen

       Fifteen years ago, Debbie Downing had an idea. It evolved from encounters with other cooks when she was running McAllister's Restaurant in downtown Colorado Springs. They would ask if they could use her kitchen. This got her thinking about starting a place sometime where people could share cooking space, in a cooperative and businesslike way.

With the business' large cooking and food preparation area in the background, Jerry and Debbie Downing stand behind the front counter of their Gotta Love It Kitchen in Old Colorado City, displaying a sampling of baked goods made by Debbie and others who share the space.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Today, Debbie, with support from husband Jerry, is finally carrying out her idea. It can be seen in the space they lease for Gotta Love It Kitchen, 2521 W. Colorado Ave., #101. Opened four months ago, the business already has reached capacity with 14 entrepreneurs who make their products - including baked goods, salsas and full meals - within the Gotta Love It facility. Their goods, plus those from eight other small businesses in the area, are sold there. They get to decide on their own prices. Items needing refrigeration are displayed in coolers near the store entrance.
       “That's an important piece for us, that we sell here,” said Debbie, who is one of the 14 with her own line of cookies, specialty cakes and garlic butter. “That's unique.”
       Jerry described the whole set-up as “simple.” A schedule allots times when each of the 14 cookers, bakers and mixers can pay to use the kitchen, and each also has allocated racks for their ingredients, equipment and other materials. The end result is “a lot of community,” Jerry said, with Gotta Love It becoming a vehicle for creative food producers who otherwise might not have an outlet for their “need and passion.”
       The Downings have also been experimenting with an indoor farmers' market in the space just west of 2521. Currently, the market features 20 or so farmers, cooks and others selling their goods on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until mid- to late afternoon.
       Debbie Downing comes from a family of cooks. Her mother started her own cookie company in Lincoln, Neb., and Debbie helped there as a child. The family later owned McAllister's from 1987 to 2000.
       But Debbie's idea 15 years ago had to wait because her father sold the business (so she no longer had access to a commercial kitchen) and she and Jerry - whom she'd met in 1989 - had their third child in five years.
       In recent years, she started making garlic butter again, using a kitchen in an area café where she was able to rent space. (She had developed the recipe while at McAllister's.) But the café owner was going to sell the business, so Debbie and Jerry started looking around for another kitchen. Last summer, they found the 2521 site, with its large, modern kitchen (built by previous tenants).
       While Debbie makes sure the kitchen operations run smoothly, Jerry affably describes himself as “the janitor,” who cleans up, fixes things and makes sure that everything is where it belongs. As for cooking, “I'm a hack,” he said. “I burn macaroni and cheese.”

Westside Pioneer article