A nursery rhyme is coming to life inside the Cochrane Centre commercial kitchen.
“A butcher, a baker … all we need is a candlestick maker, then it’s official,” says William Dray, co-owner of Best Kind Butchers, a nose-to-tail whole animal butchery. “Maybe we’ll get into candle making, but not right now.”
For the record, Dray could use the rendered beef fat to make beef tallow candles, but he and co-owner Mike Elton currently have their hands full trying to keep up with the demand for their locally raised and processed protein products.
“It’s been overwhelmingly successful,” Dray told The Telegram earlier this week as he finished breaking down a lamb sourced from a farm in Colliers.
“Every week we double production and we just sell out. People are gone mad. They love that it’s local, they love that it’s artisanal.”
It’s very likely that the same people who have fallen in love with Best Kind’s selection cuts and sausages have developed the same affinity for the collection of sweet treats created by baker Kevin Massey, owner and operator of the Old Dublin Bakery.
“It’s my full-time job,” the Dubliner says in a delightful Irish brogue while making a batch of butterscotch sauce. “My biggest problem now is keeping up with it.”
Were it not for the availability of the state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and its food establishment licence — one of the revenue-generating streams devised to help the Cochrane Street United Church congregation keep its building and solve cash-flow issues — both small businesses might not be enjoying the same success and growth.
For Massey in particular, renting space inside the bright, spacious kitchen has been nothing short of transformational for his business in the short time that he’s been there.
It took him a few days to adjust to a new oven, but once he did…
“With all my product, the quality has gone up, the croissants are the way I always wanted them to be, but I couldn’t quite get there,” he says, lauding the proofing cabinet and stainless-steel table tops that he doesn’t have at home. “Everything is coming out much better.
“It’s really changed my life and the way I do things.”
Before, operating out of his house in Torbay, his weekly St. John’s Farmers’ Market and Some Good Market fare — 200 each of croissants, cinnamon buns, nearly that many scones and hundreds of cookies — would be an all-night affair.
“I’d get up at midnight and I would be already behind,” Massey says.
While there’s still a push toward the end of the week to get things ready for the weekend markets, the all-nighters are a thing of the past and he is able to meet customer demand in a 30-hour work week in the kitchen.
“Since I’ve been here, I feel like I’ve half retired. I get the kids off to school in the morning, I come down, I do a bit of work, I go home. Sometimes I’m home 11 or 12 and I go for a hike or do whatever I want and then I pick up the kids from school every day. You can’t ask for any better.”
There might be a little more commuting to and from Torbay, but even that is outweighed by the kitchen’s proximity to the local markets.
Dray, meanwhile, Best Kind’s official butcher — Elton is a lifelong best friend with a farming background who is quickly learning the honourable trade — has even less distance to travel as a resident of downtown St. John’s. But it wasn’t a convenient stroll to work that drew him to the Cochrane Centre late last year.
Until then, Best Kind had been using other local kitchens, including Mallard Cottage, to process meat, which they would sell at the Clarenville Farmers’ Market because they couldn’t secure space at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market.
“Once we decided we were going to start going to the SJFM, that’s when we decided that we needed our own space,” Dray says. “Mallard were really great to us and we really appreciated that, but we needed a space to work out of where we could figure out our numbers, get a better idea of our efficiency and have a space to be comfortable.”
Dray says that level of comfort hasn’t been affected by sharing the space with Massey and the handful of others who use it regularly, among them a microgreens company and a dietician.
“Kevin is a professional and he’s super knowledgeable,” Dray says of his kitchen mate and fellow entrepreneur. “It’s been absolute pleasure sharing it with him.”
Massey has much the same to say of his kitchen counterparts.
“For me, half of my week is spent out here cutting away and prepping away, and Thursday, Friday, Saturday is when I’m in there baking,” he says of the kitchen divide.
“They might say otherwise, but I think we’ve been getting on well.”
So well in fact, that they are teaming up for a Mother’s Day pop up happening this Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at Port Rexton Brewery’s retail shop in Coaker’s Meadow Plaza. Massey will offer apple turnovers and lemon curd cream slices, while Dray and Elton will offer a variety of sausages — both pork and beef — and some pork cuts.
“You can get your meats, your treats and your beers,” Massey says.