Salt Lake City holds off on 'incubator kitchen' for refugees
Salt Lake City • Council wants time to address unanswered questions.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A proposal to build an "incubator kitchen" in The Leonardo museum was pushed to the back burner Tuesday evening by the Salt Lake City Council, despite enthusiasm for a program that seeks to help refugees become restaurateurs.

The council, however, appears ready to move forward with funding about $250,000 for a kitchen in the basement of The Leonardo, 209 E. 500 South, that would facilitate functions at the nonprofit museum.

The incubator proposal, championed by Councilman Kyle LaMalfa, would seek private donations to increase the size of The Leonardo kitchen.

But a smorgasbord of unanswered questions led the council to turn down the gas until it can study the proposal further.

The incubator kitchen was added to the council's amendment process that seeks to keep the city's $205 million annual budget — adopted July 1 — up to date with revenues and expenditures. The council pushed back adoption of the budget amendment until Dec. 11, or later.

Council members want to examine how the incubator kitchen proposal could be aligned with a city-owned space that should be available to all groups, said Council Chairman Soren Simonsen.

"That's the part we don't know yet," he said.

Salt Lake County Refugee Services, in conjunction with the International Rescue Committee, already has initiated a program that teaches immigrants, who have brought recipes from around the world, rules and regulations surrounding food handling in Utah. It also instructs them on the intricacies of operating a business in this country.

But it is still seeking a commercial kitchen so that would-be restaurateurs could hone culinary crafts. Private sector donors would help the program expand The Leonardo kitchen, said Natalie El-Deiry, of the International Rescue Committee.

She remains optimistic that the refugee program will find a home at the museum on Library Square.

"There is plenty of room at The Leonardo to accommodate the program," El-Deiry said. "We have already worked with an architect on that space."

Alexandra Hesse, the executive director of The Leonardo, said she saw the council meeting as promising.

"They expressed interest in the idea," she said. "I think it's a great fit."

csmart@sltrib.com