Usher

From left, Usher, his mother Jonnetta Patton and Hungry cofounder Eman Pahlevani celebrate the launch of the catering platform in the Atlanta region.  

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. —  When Jonnetta Patton founded J’s Kitchen Culinary Incubator, she wanted to help Atlanta chefs craft the business skills they need in a competitive market. 

Patton, a Johns Creek resident, knew a thing or two about managing creative types from 17 years working as a music executive in the career of her son, Usher. 

Patton recently secured a new boon for the chefs at J’s Kitchen through a partnership with Hungry, a digital platform that connects independent chefs with the corporate catering market. 

In 2016, after having retired from the music industry for nearly a decade, Patton decided she wanted to return to the business world, this time for herself. 

She was encouraged by chefs she knew to look into shared kitchens, spaces where chefs and caterers not affiliated with a restaurant can work. After studying existing shared kitchens, Patton thought she could improve on the model by offering business coaching in conjunction with culinary space. 

“Chefs are very passionate, they’re very skillful, but they try to do everything themselves, the business side and the kitchen,” Patton said. “That’s why there’s no difference between what I use to do and what I do now. Artists are very creative, but they need management. It’s the same thing with chefs.”

J’s Kitchen is a hybrid between a shared kitchen and a business incubator, offering business development services to chefs, bakers, caterers and specialty food producers, with programs to help the culinary artists craft a brand, find clients, build a team and manage their finances. 

A five-to-one staff-to-member ratio ensures that each member receives personalized attention. Business support is available to members during weekday hours while 21,000-square foot shared kitchen facilities are accessible 24 hours a day.

“We are a nurturing environment that fosters growth,” Patton said. “We look for opportunities for the chef so their businesses can thrive because it’s very difficult for chefs.”

Even with the support offered by J’s Kitchen, Patton has seen many chefs struggling to market themselves to potential clients. So when she received a call from Hungry, it was the beginning of a “match made in heaven.”

“It’s the most amazing thing that chefs really need,” Patton said. “And that’s based on my experience with chefs and the failures that I’ve seen from chefs because of marketing and promotion.”

Hungry is a platform that connects independent chefs with the corporate catering market. The site recently expanded to Atlanta, following debuts in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

“We are thrilled to open our doors in Atlanta,” Hungry CEO Jeff Grass said. “Our partnership with J’s Kitchen means Atlanta businesses have an outstanding selection of cuisines from an incredible array of top chefs. The Atlanta food scene is growing tremendously, and we are very excited to connect all these great chefs to companies seeking delicious and affordable caterings.”

Hungry’s platform can save companies money while helping chefs work their own hours. More than 400 companies in the Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia markets have used Hungry, including Amazon, Microsoft and WeWork.

“I believe in the Hungry model so much I called my son [Usher] and I said you need to invest in the company from the ground level because it’s going to be huge,” Patton said. 

In April, Usher, Jay-Z, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb, Honest Tea CEO Seth Goldman, NFL player Ndamukong Suh and others invested $8 million in Hungry.

Atlantans can try one of the more than 20 chefs on the Hungry Atlanta platform by visiting TryHungry.com. The site features a variety of cuisines, and Hungry staff provide delivery, setup and clean-up.

Through its “Fight Against Hunger” program, for every two meals Hungry clients purchase, the company feeds a person in need. Hungry also uses recyclable, fully biodegradable and compostable materials.

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