There are ten excited Detroit entrepreneurs who are hoping to win the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest presented by Bedrock. Last night, Travis and I attended the Comerica Hatch Detroit mixer where ten semi-finalists were announced! We had the opportunity to meet a few of the entrepreneurs and learn more about their businesses.
Here are the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest top ten semi-finalists:
- Barter, which aims to bring a sustainable arts venue and cocktail bar to Hamtramck, Mich. More than a bar, their model for sustainable space use will allow artists to “barter” for rehearsal space during off hours while meeting demand for music, entertainment, and cocktails at night.
- The Kitchen by Cooking with Que is Detroit’s premier demonstration kitchen and contemporary shared space. The Kitchen is a collaborative kitchen and learning environment, featuring two state-of-the-art kitchens – one for live demos and one as a shared-use rental kitchen.
- Mature is a new men’s clothing retailer that offers a unique collection of contemporary casual clothing and modern dress wear. Their products are affordable, dynamic, and high-quality, with an exceptional fit.
- Neighborhood Grocery is bringing fresh food back to the neighborhoods with a small footprint, full-line grocery stores in Detroit, targeting underserved neighborhoods that lack access to fresh foods.
- Paradise Natural Foods is a vegan deli that works to create a community of wellness while bringing people from all walks of life together in their journey toward healthier eating.
- SkinBar VII (seven) is Detroit’s premier facial spa. They believe in the long-term benefits of receiving facials and skin care treatments using only high-quality ingredients from the earth and making them accessible to all.
- Slyde’s mantra is simple, gourmet, local. The neighborhood eatery will specialize in seasonal sliders, salads, soups and po’ boys.
- Toma Detroit will serve fresh, locally sourced simple yet sophisticated cocktails and foods from Latin America. Their tasting room will focus on Tequila and Mezcal and will educate guests about regional distillation methods and styles of Agave.
- The Upperow is a cut and sew luxury fashion house brand that offers classy, upscale and versatile, clothing for men, women, and children.
- Warda Pâtisserie is a Detroit based pâtisserie business making sophisticated, hand-crafted pastries and bread inspired by the seasons, celebrating Michigan farmers and influenced by travels through Algeria, France, and Asia.
The winner of the Comerica Hatch Detroit contest will receive $50,000 from Comerica Bank and more than $200,000 in pro bono support from Hatch Detroit and its partners. The funding for this business endeavor will help the winning entrepreneur open a brick and mortar business in Detroit, Highland Park, or Hamtramck.
During the event, I took some time to chat with three of the contestants to learn more about their businesses and what how they felt about being chosen as one of the top ten for the Comerica Hatch Detroit contest.
Que, owner of The Kitchen by Cooking with Que
Que was excited to be at the Comerica Hatch Detroit event last night. As soon as I introduced myself, she greeted me with a smile and gave me a big hug saying, “I’m a hugger!”
Que told me, “The Kitchen is actually going to be Detroit’s premier demonstration kitchen.” She explained The Kitchen will be a place where guests can actually meet the chef who will prepare their meal. The chef will explain to guests how to cook their meal and other important nutritional facts. Guests will then get to enjoy eating their meal and take home the recipe so they can recreate it at home.
“You get the recipe?!” I asked. Que nodded to me, “You get the recipe.”
Okay, how cool is that, you guys? How many times have you been to one of your favorite restaurants wishing you knew how to cook a meal you tried? The Kitchen by Cooking with Que gives you the opportunity to do just that!
“Our entire purpose is to teach people how to eat to live,” Que explained to me. “We want people to live happier, healthier lives. People want to know how to eat better, they just don’t know how.”
The food sample Que offered was vegan macaroni and cheese. Travis and I really loved the macaroni. We’re both meat eaters and we couldn’t even tell the mac and cheese was plant-based. “Is everything vegan?” I asked Que.
“No. Cooking with Que is really a place where meat-eaters and vegans can coexist. Our job is to introduce more plant-based foods so I’m not going to force you to be vegan because you’re like, ‘No.’ You would never do it. If you tell me to go on a diet, then I’m eating cake. But if I say, ‘Let me show you how to eat a little bit better.’ You don’t feel like you’re being forced. You feel like ‘I’m already doing better because I’m not eating as much junk as I was before.’
Que’s advice for people who are wary of becoming vegan:
“Honestly, the word vegan scares people. For me, I like to show people just because it’s vegan it doesn’t mean it’s a salad. It doesn’t mean it tastes like crap. Because nobody thought this was vegan mac and cheese (points to the vegan macaroni and cheese samples). They just thought it was [regular] mac and cheese.”
Que says she tells people the food is all plant-based and “no animal was harmed for this [meal]. It just shows people there’s a different way to do stuff. Everything that people eat as a meat-eater, I can show you how to eat as a vegan. No matter what.”
Nezza Bandele, owner of Paradise Natural Foods
Natural Food Chef and Nutrition Educator Nezza Banadele is passionate about cooking and educating people on how to eat a healthy diet. She had a variety of natural and vegan-based foods for guests to try. She was quick to tell me she prefers to say “plant-based” food instead of vegan food because “plant-based has replaced the word vegan because it’s a lot less scary. It speaks to the fact that the food is made from the plant kingdom basically.”
I agreed with Nezza. I have noticed more and more food businesses and people use the term plant-based when describing vegan foods. As a meat-eater, I have to say, hearing the term plant-based food makes me feel less intimidated by trying vegan foods. And seeing Nezza’s display for Paradise Natural Foods made Travis and I feel excited to try the food samples she had featured for guests.
Travis tried the Chickpea Tuna Casserole. Don’t let the name confuse you, though. This “tuna casserole” was 100% plant-based. No tuna. “It was delicious,” Travis said. “It tasted better than actual tuna salad.”
In fact, Travis told me about a thousand times how much he loved Nezza’s Chickpea Tuna Casserole. “You have to try this! I’m telling you, it’s SO good,” he’d say to me over and over. Travis and I love cooking so he’s a big foodie, especially for Detroit food. If he says something is delicious and worth trying, then 99% of the time he is right.
Nezza is 90% vegan. She told me, “Even though we’re a vegan-based company, I’m not promoting veganism. I’m promoting eating healthy. One of the things we don’t do is we don’t eat enough plants. So I’m trying to help people realize you can eat plants. Whether it’s going to be you’re a 100% vegan or you want to crowd out a lot of other things on your plate. Like push the meat to the outer part and fill up your plate with plants. It’s part of a more balanced diet.”
Nezza on how she feels about being a finalist for Comerica Hatch Detroit:
(Smiles big) “Oh my God! You know what? I’m excited and terrified at the same time. I’m excited because this is like an opportunity to…I mean, $50,000! I don’t have that kind of money and if I have $50,000 I can literally start looking for a building and thinking about really opening. I’m terrified because it’s something I’ve been doing for a long time on a smaller level. I just feel like now I can see it going beyond. My 4-year-old grandson likes to help me and I can see him running the company one day.”
Warda Bouguettaya, owner and pastry chef for Warda Pâtisserie
Warda Bouguettaya is the owner and pastry chef for her business Warda Patisserie. Her pastry shop is scheduled to open this coming fall in Eastern Market. Specialize modern, hand-crafted, refined pastries. Warda told me her shop uses local produce and “is inspired by our travels in North Africa, France, and Asia.”
“When you say local produce,” I ask Warda, “do you mean you get your ingredients here in Detroit?”
“Yes, I do get the ingredients from Detroit…I do also use Michigan organic flour,” Warda explained to me. Wow – I was really amazed at Warda’s intention to use ingredients that are from Detroit and Michigan.
On how Warda feels about being a semi-finalist for Comerica Hatch Detroit:
(Smiles big) “I’m very excited. You know what, it’s all good. Whatever happens, happens. I’m so excited to be in the top ten!”
Vote for the Winner of Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest presented by Bedrock
Now the next round is public voting. That means you can vote for your favorite entrepreneur to win the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest!
Voting begins at midnight on August 10th. You can vote online by visiting the Hatch Detroit Facebook Page or HatchDetroit.com/vote. You can also vote in person at any of the following locations:
- 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 11 at Sister Pie
- 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., Monday, Aug. 13 at Campus Martius
- 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 14 at Eastern Market Shed 2
- 3 p.m. – 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 15 at La Feria
- 4 p.m. – 8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 16 at Grandmont Rosedale Farmers’ Market
Voting will close at midnight, Thursday, August 16, and the four finalists will be announced Friday, August 17. The final voting period will take place until noon, Friday, August 24.
On Thursday, August 30, the finalists will present their business pitch to a panel of judges and an audience before the winner is announced at the ticketed Hatch Off event. Public voting and judges’ deliberation will determine the 2018 Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest winner.
The Hatch Off will begin at 6 p.m. at the M@dison building, located at 1555 Broadway in Detroit. You can purchase your tickets to The Hatch Off by clicking here.
Congratulations to all of the semi-finalists and best of luck on the next round!