Bringing the Harlem Community Together
E .terra, meaning whole earth, root, beginning, seed to full growth, is more than a Harlem-based flexible commercial kitchen. It is a supportive platform where chefs, bakers, entrepreneurs, and community members are given a space and support to grow and thrive in their business journeys.
The CEO and Co-Founder, Bella Karakis, is a seasoned trademark attorney and food entrepreneur. She also co-founded a DC Metro-based food truck operation, as well as another shared kitchen brand, with multiple locations in DMV/NYC prior to founding e.terra’s flexible commercial kitchen. Currently there are two e.terrra kitchens, both located in Harlem. E.terra kitchens are home to a large variety of kitchen member operations who rent out the space for large-scale food preparation, such as cooking classes, pop-up events, and film production. The Harlem building on 120th and Third Avenue features two state-of-the-art kitchens for members, one of which is a dedicated baker kitchen with a plethora of pastry and baking equipment not commonly found in other shared commercial/ghost kitchens, such as Rational iCombi ovens, a gelato maker, dough sheeter, and two temperature controlled rooms.
The kitchens are designed in an open format to support any size business in their daily growth. Each station can be optimized for different members’ needs, such as large school lunch preparations or film/video/photo shoots. To rent the space for production, prospective members must undergo a screening process, have food handler certifications, and apply for their own Health Department or Agriculture & Markets permits. This ensures there is space available for them with no overlap from other members. E.terra also likes to get an understanding of their members’ needs before renting out the space so they know if any specialized equipment or supplies are needed to satisfy their particular business needs. Currently the two locations are home to over 40 members and a dozen more are expected to be onboarded by the end of the summer.
One of the most unique uses of the space is for documentaries, media interviews, and filming that requires modern, aesthetic, brightly lit kitchen spaces. Just recently, e.terra was rented by Netflix for their “Street Foods USA,” a NYC-based show focused on food truck operations in Harlem.
Separately, Chef Maryam Boddie, Owner of Maryam’s Yum Yum, was interviewed by Jen Maxfield of NBC at e.terra’s private kitchen space. The modern kitchen’s open concept, with state-of-the-art appliances and well lit space serves as a great background for shows and documentaries.
Besides making its way onto people’s TV screens, e.terra is also homebase for a wide variety of community service events. “A team that volunteers together stays together,” says Bella. “We are strong believers that it takes a whole village to make an impact in a community like Harlem.” e.terra has partnered with a number of community organizations like the Stanley M. Isaacs Center and Youth Action and Youth Build, two Harlem-based organizations dedicated to culinary training for young adults. E.terra hosts culinary interns from these groups at its two kitchen locations, providing free employee assistance.
Outside of the kitchen, the e.terra team volunteers with non-profits such as: Project Eats, to clear garden patches and grow produce that is sold at a steep discounts to Harlem residents and other economically challenged communities; God’s Love, to produce and pack meals for NYC residents with medical conditions; and City Harvest, to help with food rescues around the five boroughs. Over 113,000 tons of food was rescued as part of this event.
Going forward, e.terra wants to continue expanding the services available to kitchen members, and is working on its next location. Delivery and retail services are on the horizon, as e.terra seeks to give first-market experience to cool, innovative brands cooking out of their kitchen. “Anything that can help get the word out and products into mouths,” Co-Founder Bella says. One way they want to do this is by expanding to nearby college campuses–optimizing the help of an audience that is social-media focused and knows how to spread brand awareness to its peers (college students aged 18 to 24). E.terra is also hyper focused on building strategic partnerships with like-minded brands and organizations to bring positive change to the local Harlem community. It will co-host a series of Wellness Sundays in partnership with AeroFarms, Community Board 11, AKA Sorority, Inner Life, RIND and NAMI, among others, which will spotlight healthy lifestyles and nutritious eating, and bring further awareness to the plethora of talented chefs and brands producing out of e.terra.
E.terra is uniquely qualified and eager to help local chefs and food entrepreneurs get a leg up in their journeys and grow their businesses. They pride themselves on their unique approach to supporting food entrepreneurs, and on partnering with like-minded organizations to provide a platform for growth to all of their kitchen members.