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Off the street: People's Kitchen opens indoors

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The 300-square-foot food truck kitchen will be vacant for a while. Owner of Streetkitchen and The People’s Kitchen, Zane Vicknair, along with chef de cuisine Lissa Blan-Jacot, have called the truck home for the past 18 months. Now for the first time, the duo will cook in the building they’ve been overhauling at odd hours between working full time.

“I couldn’t believe there were seven people crammed into a 300-square-foot space and we worked as efficiently and cohabitated as well as we did,” Vicknair said. “We feel like we have so much space now, we are going to get lonely and miss each other.”

It feels great to spread out and not have to worry about counter space, Blan-Jacot added. “Now, I am putting one item on each counter to take up all the room in the kitchen.”

The space isn’t the only thing that has expanded. The new menu provides more options.

Brunch will no longer be confined to Saturday mornings, but a permanent fixture six days a week. There are also 25 menu items below $10 to choose from.

“It is important for us to make sure not only are we accessible to everybody from adventurous to non-adventurous taste buds but with price points as well.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Streetkitchen, however.

Winter sales in the food truck were rough on paying staff salaries and Streetkitchen had to dip into its construction funding to avoid layoffs, Vicknair said.

Not wanting to go in debt with a small business loan, Vicknair turned to crowdfunding and started a Kickstarter titled “The People’s Kitchen: Open the Damn Restaurant” April 9. The end goal is to raise $25,000 by May 8.

Within four and a half hours, the initial goal of $10,000 was passed. Within 24 hours, there was $16,000 pledged to help the group make the transition to its new home. Funding now sits near the $20,000 line.

“To see that follow up to meet our goal was overwhelming. We literally cried,” Vicknair said.

The People’s Kitchen will deliver, he added. “Our response to that was ‘Let’s open as quickly as possible.’ We maxed out our credit cards to get the last minute details we needed like coffee cups.”

Paperwork for a liquor license is in the pipeline for a June launch with a dinner service, Vicknair said.

“Our lunch would be very strong, but people would come in for dinner and some people told us they would come more if they could grab a beer. We listened.”

Walled in by panes of multicolored glass in recycled window frames is a private rentable space called the “Kaleidoscope Room.” Inside, there is a long table and a 1964 avocado green plastic chandelier from Bohnet Electric Co. of Old Town.

“We want this to become a special place to celebrate birthdays and engagements,” Vicknair said. “I’ve had people who have come in on a first date and propose to each other in the same restaurant. It is a gift to be able to be included in something like that.”

There are plans for an in-house bakery to open up in the future. Blon-Jacot hopes to return to work as a pastry chef, a plan she put on hold for years working at Golden Harvest and Streetkitchen.

“I realized I was getting older and a little more settled in my passions. I wanted to move back in the direction of pastries,” she said.

Her micro-bakery operating out of The People’s Kitchen space will be called Sacrilicious, serving a pastry of the day and stocking a bakery counter when finished.

In the meantime, Blan-Jacot will bake all the biscuits and English muffins for brunch-goers.

The Streetkitchen’s rotating, thematic menus will be put on pause briefly until the staff is trained but will return as a permanent fixture.

“We have our chalkboard mounted on the wall front and center now. It will be coming back,” Vicknair said.

The new menu comprises of brunch hits from beta testing every Saturday for the past six months as well as seasonal entrees in the Streetkitchen repertoire.

“I am looking forward to plates and silverware,” Blon-Jacot. “It is really hard on a food truck because you have to be really conscientious of the waste you have. Now, things are going to be on plates and get composted.”

Vicknair said he missed the customers most.

“Being sequestered in an aluminum cigar tube for 18 months, I miss the interaction with people," he said.

"I love how we will have them right in front of us now watching us as we work. We will be able to tell jokes again and connect with the customers on a more personal level,” Vicknair said.

In 2017, Streetkitchen opened with a crew of three people. The People’s Kitchen employs 18 and will hire more pending liquor license approval and dinner service.

The People’s Kitchen

7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tuesday to Friday

8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday, Sunday

CLOSED Monday

2722 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing

(517) 507-5730

www.eatpeoples.com

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