Photo by Shawn Poynter


For those of you who haven’t been following along, I’m Dale Mackey, owner of Dale’s Fried Pies, and I’m in the middle of building a commissary kitchen for my pie business at a building my husband and I bought in 2013 that we’re calling the Central Collective. We’re moving along with construction and this week, I’ve finalized my decisions for kitchen equipment.

Since I started Dale’s Fried Pies in 2012, I’ve been dreaming of having a kitchen of my very own. Renting or borrowing other people’s commercial kitchens is a great way to start a food business when you don’t have a ton of capital, but ultimately, it’s just not the same as having a kitchen of one’s own.

But of course, dreaming of a space and making that dream a reality are very different things, and lately I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole process. Still, after talking with our representative from KaTom and getting our selections made, I’m starting to feel pretty excited again.


Things are falling into place in the Central Collective kitchen.


My operations are pretty low-fuss/low-muss. I make the pies in small batches and do most of the work by hand, so there’s not a ton of equipment involved right now. The equipment we’re ordering from KaTom–a hood system, range, three-compartment sink, refrigerator, and hand-wash sink–is pretty much it, with the exception of a chest freezer to keep frozen pies and a mixer for dough.

At first, the thought of ordering all these things had me a little stressed out. I’ve never outfitted a commercial kitchen before, and made plenty of mistakes when I was working on my mobile food unit. But once I started the conversation with our KaTom representative, I felt much more at ease. It was excellent being able to show him our architectural plans, tell him about what we planned to do in the kitchen, and let him do the work of picking out options he thought would fit our three main constraints:

1. Will it pass health department requirements?

Of course, any equipment we’re buying from KaTom will be designed for safe use in a commercial kitchen, but we did think about ways of saving counter space, like supplying just one drain board on the three-compartment sink and supplementing drying space with a wire rack above, or placing our hand-wash sink in a place where it wouldn’t need splash guards.

2. Will it fit in the space?

Our commissary is roughly the size of an average home kitchen, meaning that space is definitely limited. We often went for the biggest piece of equipment we could, given the space (for instance, in the case of the range and refrigerator). But other times, we went a little smaller to provide more room for prep (for example, removing a drain board from the three-compartment sink).

3. Can we afford it?

Our funds are not limitless so, as with any business, we needed to make sure our options fit within our budget. In real life, this basically meant if we were choosing between two fairly similar options, we’d go with the cheaper one.

I keep looking over the equipment selection list and thinking, “This is where I’ll wash my dishes,” or, “This is where I’ll cook my fillings.” Having these choices finalized is reconnecting me with the idea that soon enough, I really am going to have a kitchen of my very own.

Dale Mackey
Dale Mackey

Dale Mackey is a Chicago native who moved to Knoxville in 2007 and has no plans of leaving. She spends most of her time making and selling fried pies, but when she finds a free moment, she enjoys writing, eating, playing with her cats, playing with her husband, and going on adventures. She's named after cowgirl Dale Evans, and hopes she does her namesake justice.

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