Groundbreaking at Chef Space

Mayor Greg Fischer, David Tandy, Maria Hampton, Johnetta Roberts, Susan Barry and Congressman John Yarmuth.


The Community Foundation was delighted to be part of the groundbreaking for Chef Space, our area’s first kitchen incubator located in the former Jay’s Cafeteria in the Russell Neighborhood.  Chef Space is the Foundation’s second impact investment, an initiative in which we support our community through investments in projects that offer a financial and tangible social or community benefit.

National and local leaders came together to celebrate as Community Ventures, a Kentucky-based nonprofit corporation, broke ground on Chef Space. Chef Space will provide commercial kitchen space and business support services for up to 50 food related early stage businesses. The facility will also house a retail outlet and meeting spaces open to the community. Community Ventures is renovating the 13,000-square-foot site with a late October opening planned as the first phase of a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization project.

Joining Community Ventures at the groundbreaking event were Chef Space project funding partners the Community Foundation of Louisville, Sam Swope Family Foundation, Kentucky Bank, Kentucky Reinvestment Fund, NeighborWorks America, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

“By turning this iconic restaurant into a culinary incubator, Chef Space will create new opportunities, promote entrepreneurship, and generate business growth to help revitalize the Russell neighborhood,” said Congressman John Yarmuth. “I’m proud of the federal investment in this project and would like to thank Community Ventures, Mayor Fischer, and all the partners involved for making this transformation a reality.”

“Louisville is a hub for food and beverage companies of all sizes,” said Mayor Greg Fischer. “Chef Space will not only play an important role in our city’s vibrant food community, but it will also serve as an incubator to foster entrepreneurs and grow opportunities for small businesses in the Russell neighborhood.”

“Community Ventures has had a presence in Louisville since 2007 and our partners and donors play a major role in how successful we can be,” said Community Ventures President & CEO Kevin Smith. “By bringing together our partners around entrepreneurship, we hope to help the Russell neighborhood rebuild itself. We now need people who dream of starting their own food business.”

“We are delighted to put charitable capital to work to support the reinvention of Jay’s Cafeteria,” said Susan Barry, President & CEO, Community Foundation of Louisville. “Our impact investment in Community Ventures for Chef Space will bring a revitalized commercial space, jobs, and a great sense of purpose to the community.”

Chef Space will be led by Johnetta Roberts, President, Chef Space, and Chris Lavenson, Vice President, Chef Space. Community Ventures’ extended staff will provide its full menu of housing and business lending services and products.

Kitchen incubators, also known as culinary incubators, are dedicated to fostering early-stage catering, retail and wholesale food businesses. Members are given the opportunity to jump start their food business with a fully-licensed and outfitted commercial kitchen, support services, advice and programs to help build their business. This kitchen incubator can foster up to 50 different members at a time with the goal of helping them grow and move out of the incubator. Food trucks, caterers and bakers are a few examples of the food entrepreneurs Chef Space can help. Chef Space will also house a retail outlet open to the public named Jay’s Café that will provide access to healthy food options and other products. Chef Space is modeled on the successful Union Kitchen Food Incubator ( in Washington, D.C.