Chef Chriss Brown is the owner of Beaver Street Commissary and Route 90 BBQ, as well as founder of The Empowered Kitchen, a local nonprofit that empowers women to independence through careers in the food industry.
Born and raised in Jacksonville Beach, she spent 15 years working in the corporate restaurant world in several states before moving back home to Jacksonville in 2000. In 2003, she opened her restaurant, Cafe Express, building a large enough following of loyal clients and catering business to sell the restaurant and look at other options, namely opening her own catering company.
In looking for a commissary in Jacksonville, she quickly found out that only one existed at the time, and it did not meet her needs or standards of cleanliness. Chriss had a vision, so she forged a partnership with a local property owner to build Beaver Street Commissary in a building he owned that was being used for small storage. The initial kitchen, licensed on July 28, 2009, was built with small entrepreneurs in mind, so that others like Chriss, looking for a licensed facility to operate out of, could join. There has been such a demand that the commissary has now grown to three kitchens and is the only commissary of its kind in Northeast Florida. There are a total of 38 licensed companies between DBPR (food) and Agriculture, USDA, and FDA, and after a Whole Foods inspection last year, they are now an approved commissary for a vendor wanting to sell their products in a store.
Chef Chriss is a visionary. She got involved in heavily promoting and assisting local food trucks in 2012, which eventually led to the purchase of "The Lot" across from the commissary and setting it up in September 2013 solely for the use and convenience of food trucks. It provides individual electric, garbage, grease disposal and water set up in a secure parking area, along with walk-in cooler, freezer prep room and dry storage. In 2016, Chef Chriss purchased Jax Truckies, doubling the booking opportunities for food trucks and growing it to be the oldest and largest Food truck Association in Northeast Florida. This created a significant increase in the food truck scene for Jacksonville.
As a successful entrepreneur, Chriss wanted to give back to the community. After hearing about food deserts and lack of economic opportunity for women in the city, she created her nonprofit, The Empowered Kitchen, in 2017. In collaboration with six other successful female entrepreneurs, she has created two programs - one program that acts as an economic incubator by mentoring and empowering women to open their own food businesses, and another called Helping Hands that provides culinary skills training to young women, helping to provide independence and a brighter future through careers in the food industry.