Now They're Cookin': Cibo Kitchens Brings Culinary Variety to Frisco’s Rail DistrictJul 01, 2022 ● By Katherine Ponder
Delicious, mouthwatering aromas can draw people to a kitchen like nothing else.
Cibo Kitchens is a unique concept where every chef who cooks there brings their own skills and flair to fill the kitchen with new delights. They build their businesses and permeate Frisco’s red-hot Rail District with amazing smells in the process.
Cibo (pronounced “chee-bow” and meaning “food” in Italian) was created, developed and opened earlier this year, at 7511 Main St. Suite 190, by Matthew and Brooklyn Calloway. The couple are active in Frisco: He owns Calloway Real Estate, and she is a former teacher who founded Brookielynn’s Bungalow, a turn-of-the-century venue where classes, photography sessions and other events are held.
The Calloways are no strangers to working in the event world: Matt is a former sales rep for spirit company Bacardi and often had to find spaces to prep the mint and limes used in the making of mojitos. Brooklyn is the organizer and planner extraordinaire for Brookielynn’s Bungalow. Through the real estate company, Matt knows that many people are interested in opening restaurants in Frisco, but the sticker shock associated with doing so is oftentimes enough to shelve those dreams. The couple realized there was a growing need locally and seized the opportunity to bring a commercial kitchen space here.
Cibo Kitchens is not just any standard kitchen space, though: It is a hybrid, fully licensed commercial kitchen, ghost kitchen, prep space, pop-up restaurant, storefront, culinary studio, broadcasting/recording facility and event space that is quickly becoming a core part of Frisco’s downtown community. In short, it has created a new category that so far has only one player — itself.
Given his real estate expertise, Matt jumped at the opportunity to lease and completely transform the space. He has extensive experience buying historic properties in downtown Frisco and says he has sold 120 older properties, becoming something of a renovation expert in the process. This area of the city dates back to 1869, so there is plenty to preserve and much that must be mindfully replaced. He has done both and sold the historic homes through his real estate company.
The Calloways’ experiences within Frisco made it an easy decision to bring Cibo Kitchens to The Patios at the Rail. Matt served as the project’s general contractor for its construction and finish out. Cibo Kitchens is a gorgeous space with its magazine-ready color scheme, solid quartz countertops, floor-to-ceiling tile, high-end commercial equipment, floating hood systems, whitewashed brick, picture-perfect lighting and a pair of complete kitchen spaces.
The pandemic changed many things about the restaurant world. Diners increasingly ordered food for pickup and delivery, countless restaurants closed, and thousands of industry employees were furloughed or permanently laid off. It also emboldened a new generation of budding chefs and culinary minds to start cooking and baking creatively at home.
“COVID put a sense of perspective in culinary entrepreneurs,” Brooklyn said. “People couldn’t go to restaurants. Everything shut down. There’s a fear of investing so much in a restaurant. But at Cibo, you get a complete restaurant at an hourly rate. Chefs can test concepts and menus.”
The kitchen has nearly two dozen chef “members.” “All these people come from different walks of life,” she said. “Over half are cooking out of their homes. They want to grow (their businesses) and get out of their house, but don’t necessarily want the risk and longevity of a restaurant.”
As the kitchen space was being developed, the Calloways used social media to build a list of potential chef members. They had 300 inquiries about the place before opening the doors in May.
When chefs apply to become a member, the couple interviews them and the business is vetted. If selected, they become part of Cibo Kitchens’ subscriber chef team. Each applicant must have proper insurance, a food manager license and team food handler licensing.
The Calloways show the facility’s capabilities before a chef signs a six-month recurring subscription, guaranteeing that they will use the space at least two hours per month. “We say you can build your food business by the hour,” Matt explained. “It takes out some of the inherent risks of opening a restaurant. Our mission is to help food entrepreneurs.”
One of the most unique features of Cibo Kitchens is that it is camera ready. Professional photo shoots are easy to accommodate courtesy of the space’s superior lighting and impressive finishes. The on-site production and broadcast studio is equally appealing for chefs to create live cooking videos or record them for later use. National cooking shows and other televised cooking segments can be produced in the studio, and the Calloways hope to see that happen one day.
Cibo Kitchens has partnered with Eventi, a special events venue also located at the Patios at the Rail, to allow visitors to buy food from Cibo Kitchens chefs and sit down to eat at one of eight barstools inside, or on the building’s open-air rooftop space for a picnic. “It’s an entire experience,” Matt said.
The chefs at Cibo Kitchens also take their culinary wares out into the world to sell. Some fulfill online orders there. Others prep for area fairs and pop-up opportunities, while some create enough product to sell in the Cibo storefront as well as for takeout orders.
Rodrigo Morales is a 23-year-old baker from Peru who is crafting flakey croissants at Cibo Kitchens through his startup, Criox Bakehouse. He sells them on weekends at the Frisco Fresh Market. Brooklyn Calloway said Morales bakes “the most amazing breads you've ever seen — or smelled.”
Juliana Diadone is the chef behind The Tapiocary, a gluten-free Brazilian pop-up restaurant at Cibo Kitchens. She hopes to prove that more can be made from tapioca (a starch that is derived from the root of the cassava plant) than just pudding. “Juliana wants to bring her heart-warming bread to the city she chose to call home,” Brooklyn Calloway said.
Who’s in the Kitchen?
Dominic Parks Jr. heads ChefNIC & Co., which also works out of Cibo Kitchens. The letters NIC are not only the last of his first name but also represent the words “nutrition,” “inspiration” and “creativity.”
Parks once thought he wanted to become an architect. He was attending the University of Arkansas when a class assignment revealed a new path: The professor’s instructions were to pick anything on campus that the students wanted to change and create a plan to execute on it. He selected food and dreamed up a fictitious scenario where he would make chicken wings and sell them at the student entrance of the school’s stadium during home football games.
As a demonstration, Parks made wings for the class using his own sauce. “Everyone loved them,” he recalled, “including me. I changed my degree to hospitality and restaurant management because I also realized that everything I wanted to do with architecture would take years to actually be built.”
A year into his new major, Parks’ next impactful class assignment was to plan a restaurant startup. He went with a Cinco de Mayo theme and created flyers touting a grand opening. It was a fictitious eatery, but the class was so enthusiastic about the concept that he decided to turn it into reality. He sold his car, bought some grills and partnered with nearby bars to sell food on their patios. The exercise was a success.
Fate had more in store for Parks, however. Within a week’s time, his family experienced some serious troubles, he learned that he had a heart condition and discovered he’d been a victim of identity theft and had multiple loans and even an arrest on his false record. His wages were garnished as the fraudulent loans were called in. While later fighting related legal battles, he became sidetracked from school and lost his scholarship. He eventually was forced to file bankruptcy.
At the time, “I’m 23 years old and filing bankruptcy and have to pay a lawyer. … It was all hard. But with my company, I became the official caterer for the Walmart corporate store and sometimes the (University of Arkansas) Razorbacks teams.” He eventually left the university but continued cooking.
Parks visited Dallas in 2014 and found the Art Institute of Dallas’ culinary arts program. He moved to North Texas, finished his degree and worked at multiple restaurants simultaneously. When he graduated, a fellow student gave him a lead on a job as a sous-chef at an Amarillo country club. He moved there to work and soon met the woman who would become his wife.
Becoming The Boss
Parks went on to become the executive chef for a Dallas company and eventually landed better job offers. The restaurant life was tough, however, and when he and his wife were expecting their daughter, he decided to seek a position that offered more normal work hours.
He signed on as an executive chef at the Toyota and Lexus headquarters in Plano. Parks and his team were in charge of multiple eateries there as well as on-site catering and a bakery, large events and employee lunches, among others.
By June 2020, Parks was developing his own company, a home-meal delivery system. The following month, his Toyota position was officially eliminated in the wake of the pandemic. He started traveling with SodexoMagic, a food and facilities management company, and took chef jobs from North Texas to Mississippi.
“It was too much,” Parks recalled. “In 2021, I decided to go all in on my own business. Catering had been a side hustle and all my funds went back into my business.” He built his private chef, catering and home-delivery meal service that includes prepared meals that can be refrigerated or frozen and heated later. Customers order at least 48 hours in advance through its website, chefnic.com. Parks and his team deliver the food in branded thermal bags.
Business this year has been so good that Parks needed more space in which to cook. He found Cibo Kitchens and knew it would be ideal. He is currently preparing meals at the facility and wants to run a weekly pop-up restaurant there. He rattles off a menu that could include fried lobster tail, homemade lemonade, braised beef, homemade pasta and a wide variety of other temptations.
Parks and his family have planted roots in Frisco. “I never want to leave,” he said. “It’s my home, part of my community. I feel safe here. I started feeding police and the fire departments during COVID and (the) racial unrest” that occurred around the nation in 2020.
The ChefNIC team motto is “Creating tasteful memories you can’t afford to lose.” Parks wants to use his talents and story to teach people how to eat differently and healthfully with a wide variety of foods. He also wants to inspire others with his story.
“For a while, everything was very hard. I see how it worked out in the end – for me to learn and grow,” he said. “Now it’s a priority for me to take care of my team, staff and clients.”
Katherine Ponder is a writer, nonprofit manager, mother of two humans and two dogs, wife of 25-plus years and storyteller who loves to share the gift of words.