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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Friday Night Foodtique

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Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Kathy Johnson, owner of Gumbeaux Cajun Catering Company serves their Cajun crawfish pasta during the Friday Night Foodtique event on Friday, Sept. 17. 

Located on the north end of Texas Avenue, Renegade Bakery and Culinary Studio has forged its own path to support small businesses and bring together diverse talents.  

The commercial kitchen opens its doors to the public each Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. to present “Friday Night Foodtique,” inviting the community to get to know local artisans of all trades. Renegade Bakery and Culinary Studio is owned by Isabel “Iszi” McPartlin, a native of College Station with a passion for the culinary arts. When wanting to start her own culinary business, Sweet Eve Creations, McPartlin said she saw the need for a shared-use kitchen in the area. 

“When I first moved [back] here nine years ago, there wasn’t a place like this. I moved from Chicago and they had shared kitchens over there already at this time,” McPartlin said. “The nearest ones were out of town, so I tabled the idea for a while until this opportunity came up … I thought if I was looking for something like this, other people might be looking for something like this.”

In addition to her own need for a commercial space, McPartlin said she is also a passionate supporter of her fellow chefs because of the difficulty of succeeding in the food industry.

“The food business is really hard to get into … because the margins are so low and the rents are so high. To get anything in College Station is ridiculously high, that’s a lot of muffins you’ve got to sell just to make the rent on a place,” McPartlin said. “I thought this would be a good opportunity for people to come in and make their food business here and have access to a health department-approved commercial kitchen.”

Outside of presenting the food created within Renegade, Friday Night Foodtique invites artisans selling everything from jewelry to glow-in-the-dark candles, in addition to the home-based Share Bear Bakery, owned by local Hannah Cotter.

“I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I’m able to do this and help contribute financially but watch the kids as well,” Cotter said. “I’ve always loved to cook, so I just started baking. I would just watch videos or look on Pinterest at all these cakes and cupcakes, and I wanted to try it and see if I could do it. I love to decorate, so my husband just encouraged me to start actually selling.”

English junior Mariah Bailey, Cotter’s niece, said she has enjoyed working at Share Bear since transferring to Texas A&M, and feels the Friday Night Foodtique is a great way for students to build community.

“It’s good food, it’s good people, so it’s a good place to congregate and meet new people,” Bailey said. “Especially with COVID[-19], there’s been so much isolation, so many people come to school and don’t know anybody, so it’s a great place to come relax with cool people and good food, and it always smells really good in here.”

One business operating out of Renegade is Gumbeaux Cajun Catering Company, headed by local chef Kathy Johnson, who serves everything from boudin balls to Cajun crawfish pasta. Johnson said she’s always loved to cook, but hesitated to begin her own company. 

“It’s kind of a passion of mine. We used to have huge gumbo parties at our house. When [COVID-19] happened and oil went negative —I’m an oil and gas accountant — the company I worked for went away,” Johnson said. “My son, Christopher, Class of 2016, started buying me books on starting food businesses, he pushed me into it and said, ‘This is your chance, things have changed.’ I know I didn’t want to do a food truck, so I thought I would give catering a try.”

After Johnson began renting space at Renegade, she was invited to join the Foodtique, which she said is a great opportunity for students to try local flavors and meet local artists.

“I think it would be fun for [students] to come out and sample the different food and see the other vendors,” Johnson said. “Occasionally we have arts and crafts and various vendors. I think they would get to try a lot of different restaurants and a lot of different types of food, without any obligations. We had students come early on, and it was a lot of fun, they brought a lot of life to the place.”

On top of the support of local businesses, McPartlin also said Friday Night Foodtique is a chance for students interested in creating their own business to see what the Bryan-College Station area has to offer.

“I know a lot of the students are forward and progressive thinking, and if they’re looking at starting a food business this would be a good place to start if they’re graduating, or maybe looking to do an internship to learn a little bit,” McPartlin said. “I know a lot of them feel really passionately about supporting small businesses, especially now with the climate that we’re in, and this is a great way to support local businesses and get something really unique and specific to this area.”

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