in focus: Pittsburgh Market Kitchen

Whether it’s a famous family cheesecake recipe, the most talked about pasta salad at the block party or even a coworker’s famous break room chocolate chip cookies, a special dish can take the spotlight with the help of the Pittsburgh Public Market.

Funded by the nonprofit community development program Neighbors in the Strip, the Strip District’s Public Market has been giving local businesses and entrepreneurs the space and opportunity to test products in a small business environment since it opened in 2005. But now, the facility includes The Market Kitchen, a commercial kitchen for anyone to start small and test their skills.

Mt. Lebanon resident Kelly James, a 22-year culinary veteran, recently became manager for the kitchen, located within the Public Market’s warehouse facility. The kitchen was scheduled for a late August opening.

James understands the struggle of small business owners, as she tried to turn a profit on her small Dormont business, Sugar Cafe, which closed last year. Working with the Public Market “is really cathartic after having to close my business and my dream,” says James. “If I would have had the option of opening Sugar Cafe or opening up in a place like [the Market Kitchen] I would have chosen to go here.”

The community kitchen provides space and utilities, allowing licensed food entrepreneurs and enthusiasts access to a fully equipped and licensed commercial kitchen to experiment with products. “What I’m really doing here is touching base with food entrepreneurs and giving them another option so that they don’t have to pile all their money into a brick and mortar,” says James. “They can rent the kitchen, then get a booth and grow very slowly or at their own pace.”

A unique factor of the public kitchen is its direct attachment to retail space in The Public Market. “The Pittsburgh Public Market is a nonprofit, and we are here to build businesses,” says James, who notes the market’s appreciation for community and culture fits well in its historic Strip District location. “A lot of public markets in other cities have this concept going on, but for Pittsburgh this is really up and coming…It’s going to bring up our culinary scene exponentially.”

The Market Kitchen is open 24/7 to accommodate its users schedules. Hourly rental for kitchen members is $17.50 in addition to the annual membership fee of $100. For more information visit

Photo by Gene Puskar