Meet Jennifer & Maelle: Episode 1: Why JustCook Kitchens?

5th Street Food Hall: The Collective Power of Biz & Chefs

Foodies, there’s a new food place in town! You’ve probably been wondering if restaurants that closed during COVID will reopen, and stay open.   Food is more than sustenance  to humans – it’s evolved into a key social happening!  So are there any new ideas to help make the food scene vibrant again for both chefs and foodies?

Image Credit: JustCook Kitchens
Image Credit: JustCook Kitchens

Well, Jennifer Keith (aka The Fire Starter), Luke Butterworth (aka The SubZero) the co-founders of JustCook Kitchens, and Maëlle Piquée (aka Badass Bistro) are starting up a new way to help Chefs to realize their culinary passions through a business partnership – to alleviate chefs of the hassles of opening and operating the business side of a restaurant!

In Episode 1, we chat and get to know the thinking of Jennifer Keith, Co-founder and CEO and Maëlle Piquée, CMO of JustCook Kitchens,  – the startup behind the new place in town, the 5th Street Food Hall in Edmonton Alberta. These serial entrepreneurs have identified a way with their JustCook Kitchen business model.

So what’s their background and why are they starting up a new business during COVID? Many chefs are great culinary artisans, but some may not be as great on the operations and business side – especially with the slim margins in the hospitality business (exacerbated by COVID).

So what’s the value that JustCook Kitchens brings to Chefsones who may be thinking of starting up a restaurant, or who may want to cook but not finance and build and fit up their own restaurant facility?  JustCook Kitchens have actually found a way to have four chefs cooking in four separate kitchens to create four different culinary menu offerings – under one roof at 5th Street Food Hall!  All they need now is four chefs (and maybe their sous chefs) for the 5th Street Food Hall to happen!

But how does this model work and what will the services and cuisine include in detail? We’ll catch up with Luke Butterworth, COO of JustCook Kitchens, Jennifer and Maëlle in the next episodes – so stay tuned!

Jennifer’s Blog:

Image Credit: FutureCite Inc

We’re looking to partner with chefs to bring them collective benefits and bargaining power; the kind of benefits they would get by opening up a franchise for example, without having to be part of a chain. Allowing them to explore their creativity and focus on their craft while we take care of the business side of things. By focusing on lowering the barriers to entry, we want to give talented chefs a chance to realize their potential without having to risk it all, and help them make more money by running alongside other restaurants. This enables them to share the costs and loads that each restaurant would normally need to take on all on their own, making their dollar go much farther.

We designed this model, the technology, the customer experience, all during the COVID pandemic, so we built this to be pandemic-proof.  The food hall format is innately take-out and delivery oriented – and we’re building the technology from scratch to support it. There is an eat-in area, which will also have a fantastic atmosphere for when things return to a state when dine-in is safe, but until then, our food hall will be able to operate during these uncertain times.

Maëlle’s Blog:

Image Credit: FutureCite Inc

Opening your own restaurant is not only hard, but also costly. Between the steep start-up costs, the mountain of paperwork, the endless negotiations with landlords or insurance companies, and the additional costs and responsibilities brought on by the front of house staff, many chefs get discouraged and give up on their dreams.

This is where JustCook fits best. The spotlight is given back to the chefs when they join our food hall and they are empowered to, well, just cook.

As a food hall, we’re bringing four kitchens / restaurants into a single space. Where we believe we’re unique is on three main points:

  • We will be focusing on local chefs as our longer-term tenants, as we want each of our locations (to come) to be truly unique and representing the area/city they’re in.
  • We have designed our in-house technology with both the chef and the customer experiences in mind. We want our web-app to help the chefs make data-driven decisions to improve their processes while offering a seamless ordering experience for customers.
  • Finally, we’re looking to create the best synergy we can between the kitchens/restaurants. We are not only looking at each chef individually, but also in relation with the other three kitchens. We want our food hall to bring better value/success than each of the restaurants would get individually.

JustCook Kitchens takes care of most of the business side of running a restaurant, including the backend staff (dish pit, bartenders, and delivery drivers), support for branding and marketing, and our in-house technology designed for the best chef and customer experience.

About Jennifer Keith  Chief Executive Officer
“The Fire Starter”

Image Credit: Just Cook Kitchens

Jennifer has always had an interest in entrepreneurship that was seeded in childhood as she watched her family start and operate businesses related to travel and food. She holds an MBA in Innovation and Entrepreneurship from the U of A and she has been focused for years on identifying opportunities to help small to medium-sized businesses thrive.
Her life vision is to be a force of positive change in the world through her skills and business acumen, and she dedicates herself to projects and ventures that she believes can make a meaningful difference to her local community and beyond.

About Luke Butterworth  Chief Operating Officer
“Mr. Subzero”

Image Credit: JustCook Kitchens

Luke is a serial entrepreneur that thrives on innovating in markets that excite him, including automated supply chains, autonomous vehicles, health and food tech. As an EMBA graduate from the U of A, and Next36/AI alumni there is nothing Luke enjoys more than entrepreneurship. With a chef for a brother, he has grown to love and appreciate the challenges involved in bringing new food concepts to life with the current ecosystem tools.


About Maëlle Piquée  Chief Marketing Officer
“The Bistro Badass”

Image Credit: JustCook Kitchens

Born and raised in France, Maëlle moved to Canada to pursue an MBA in International Business. With experience in marketing, including within the wine and spirits industry, she has witnessed the opportunities and challenges associated with starting new businesses or bringing innovative ideas to life. She loves bringing her expertise in marketing and communication to help businesses and non-profit organizations thrive and bring positive change.

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