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Launch Pad: A Culinary 'America's Got Talent'

Founder Al Goldberg at Mess Hall
Founder Al Goldberg at Mess Hall
Photo: Official
Missy Frederick is the Cities Director for Eater.

Free consulting and mentoring. A $500,000 equity investment. Media and design services. It's no surprise that plenty of would-be food entrepreneurs are throwing their collective hats into the ring for the upcoming Launch Pad competition.

The contest is courtesy of Mess Hall, a culinary incubator program just getting off the ground in D.C. The company will choose one promising upstart, while planning to assist several others as it draws in entrepreneurs to be part of a budding food community.

Mess Hall is the brainchild of Al Goldberg, who is operating the incubator out of a 10,000 square foot space at 703 Edgewood St. NE. Goldberg thinks as many as 20 or 25 companies will operate out of the facility once it gets off the ground, and the goal is to provide commercial kitchen space and a collaborative working environment for them.

Among those hoping to snag a Launch Pad win: Mason-Dixie Biscuit Company, which has been making waves with popular pop-up events around town (and will spend some time at another culinary incubator, EatsPlace). Co-founder Ayesha Abuelhiga heard about Mess Hall from a friend who forwarded her an article about the venture.

"I feel so blessed; everything that has happened for the three of us [for Mason Dixie] has happened through serendipity," she said. "It's been amazing so far. Who doesn't want half a million dollars to help launch their business?"

Also competing: Heba Saleh, the founder of EatLuv, Inc., a company that sends subscribers the ingredients and recipes needed to make local meals from scratch at home. "I think the competition is going to be helpful for me because it is going to help get me focused on what's important and how to showcase my business, and help connect me with a lot of people in the food community, " said Saleh.

Indeed, making those connections is an important goal for Mess Hall; its founders see Launch Pad as a "Culinary 'America's Got Talent'" where not only the winners will benefit from the process.

Those interested in competing in Launch Pad must register by Monday, Aug. 11. After that, they'll submit a business plan. A winner will be chosen from a group of finalists that will present during a grand finale event in late September.
· Launch Pad [Official Site]
· All Previous Mess Hall Coverage [-EDC-]