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plume 01-22-2011 10:39 AM

Mobile oven health/catering/etc permits
 
Hello,

Been giving some serious considering (and dreaming, perhaps) for a rolling pizzeria to sell at farmer's markets, fairs, music events, weddings, etc in the Owens Valley of California. I've run up against some confusion as to how to this would indeed even be possible given the CA health regs that states the necessity of a commercial kitchen for all prep work and a host of other regs that would make it prohibitively expensive to start such a venture. Almost seems like it would be like starting up a brick and mortar restaurant.

On further note, found this exception:

"According to the CRFC, caterers must prepare all food at the their approved establishment except for barbecue foods, which may be cooked on site. An exception is also made for caterers preparing and serving food all day at a public event, such as at a fair. The caterer must obtain a different health permit and permit fee to participate in these types of events."

Does this mean you could, if you had proper on-site fridge and a few buckets for washing, that you could do all your prep-work on site and cook everything there and not have to have a catering license?

Thanks in advance for any help.

mattieandG 01-28-2011 09:48 AM

Re: Mobile oven health/catering/etc permits
 
We are in California. You being in a different county might have diff regs, but we are in LA County and did only a few events before we went private. We did one big 4th of July festival that we got all the permits for.

Basically we wrote on the application "all food prepared and cooked onsite". When the health inspector came by, we had to show receipts that showed we bought everything on the way to the event, since we have no legal place to store product. It was tricky because obviously we couldn't go to restaurant depot and smart n final on July 4. We told the inspector that it was stored in a refrigeration unit at a church overnite and he did not inquire further.

We got around the sink by having a bucket (like the beer keg kind), hand sanitizer, and large sparkletts water bottle with a pump dispenser. We had 4 large igloos to store our products, he checked temp on those. He checked temp on hubby's grated cheese and said it wasn't cold enough. Gave us time to add more ice to that tray.

He only sited us for one thing "no hat" and a guy we were chatting with had a hat on, the inspector said "put on that hat" - the guy was kind enough to hand it over and we passed.

To appease the festival promoter we had to contact the local fire department and explain we would have a live fire at the event. He had to give it the go ahead. The fire inspector said "you got yourself a nice extinguisher, right?" I said yep. He said "but then again, if you have to use it, I don't expect you'll sell many pizzas". Done.

We know another guy that does farmers markets every weekend in southern california. He said it all depends on the inspector. He got sited because 2 flies had flown into his tent during inspection. He had another that walked in, looked for 2 minutes, and said "pass".

Tman1 01-28-2011 12:47 PM

Re: Mobile oven health/catering/etc permits
 
The only one who can reply to your question with 100% certainty is the health inspector. Pick up the phone and ask some questions. It can be done as many are doing it, but you'll need to know what YOUR county says, not someone else's. Once you get those answers, then you can start figuring/asking how to get to that point.

Good luck!

GotRocks 01-28-2011 01:55 PM

Re: Mobile oven health/catering/etc permits
 
I would start ate the 'National restaurant Association" website, look into getting some food safety/sanitation education under your belt, and look at the county website for your local health department.

You will need a licensed building/trailer with mechanical refrigeration sanitizing equipment (3-4 bay sink, fresh water from an approved source, and grey water holding tanks)
No food can be prepared at your home, so if that was the thoughts, stop.
You may also be able to rent a kitchen as a commissary, look for a 'Business Incubator" in your area (universities are good for this, and are your local economic development authority office)

It is not easy, there are many requirements to be met when you plan to serve food to the general public, and for good reason.
I started my place by catering first, and it is imperative you stay within code and be insured.
Good luck, it is not easy getting there, but very rewarding once you do.
I have been involved in the food service industry for 20+ years before going out on my own, there is a lot to learn if you do not have the background.

plume 01-28-2011 07:06 PM

Re: Mobile oven health/catering/etc permits
 
Thanks all, for the good advice and wisdom. Really appreciate it. In our small town there is nary a commissary kitchen and the one catering outfit doesn't have room to rent out theirs. May be more of a struggle than I thought. But I'll keep researching it.

brokencookie 01-29-2011 01:59 PM

Re: Mobile oven health/catering/etc permits
 
Your health department can be an asset. I would make an appointment and go in and ask them for help in setting up. When they see you are making the effort to comply with the laws they are usually willing to help you meet the requirements. They can also point you in the direction of resources you may need such as rental kitchens etc. I started by renting a school kitchen during non-school hours.
I started a small jam making business by starting with the health dept. I am the onliy legal jam maker in my county. While the dept of health can be ( and usually is) a big pain in the rear, I view it as the cost of doing business. Without their blessing you are out of business.

You will have to have dedication facility in order to cook food for the public. I was able to convert a 22 ft travel trailer into a mobile kitchen that meets the requirements for just under $4,000. You can also buy a "roach coach" for anywhere between about $8,000 and $50,000. I would consider buying one and towing your oven behind it.

Food for thought

Best of luck

Bruce

Grimaldi 01-30-2011 11:53 AM

Re: Mobile oven health/catering/etc permits
 
Personally, I don't buy all the 'regulations protect the public's health argument'. We have never been more a regulated and a less healthy society than currently. It is ok to sell chemical laden foods, ammoniated slaughter house floor scrapings as hamburger, diabetes causing HFCS and cancer causing artificial sweeteners, and artery clogging hydrogenated fats as approved foods...not to mention franken foods (GMO) and antibiotic and hormone laced products...but, try to sell home baked bread at the Farmer's Market or make dough for pizza at home to sell at the Farmer's Market and all hell will break loose. There are virtually zero risks of food born diseases from baked dough products whether from home or a commercial kitchen. (rant off :)

If you really want to try the mobile route, use the BBQ exclusion and make everything on site at the fair or event. It is tough to do with dough, but it can be done. Everything else for pizza is easy to prep on site.

Also, another route is to see if a local church will let you use their kitchen, maybe even getting their kitchen approved by the Health Dept.

brokencookie 01-30-2011 12:44 PM

Re: Mobile oven health/catering/etc permits
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Grimaldi (Post 107030)
Personally, I don't buy all the 'regulations protect the public's heath argument'. There are virtually zero risks of food born diseases from baked dough products whether from home or a commercial kitchen. (rant off :).

I am with you all the way. I ended up having to provide the health dept with data and shove it down their throats before getting approvals. I found a CDC report that listed only 102 cases of botulism in the USA during a 10 year period from home canning. All of these cases involved canning fish and a few vegatables. None were from fruit or jam. Even with these overwhelming stats in hand it was an uphill slog to get approvals.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Grimaldi (Post 107030)
Also, another route is to see if a local church will let you use their kitchen, maybe even getting their kitchen approved by the Health Dept.

This is a great idea. One snag I did run into using a school kitchen was that it required a seperate inspection ( that I had to pay for) before I could use it. Since the health dept sent a different inspector, suddenly there were now problems with the schools original permit. I managed to smooth it over by offering to pay to repair the problem since the cost was low. They were missing a backflow preventer on one of the water lines. My point is that you need to have a good relationship with the church or school to make this work. Be prepared to go the extra mile if needed.

Bruce

P.S. Yes, it does seem insanely difficult to accomplish such an easy task. Hang it there. Once you have gone through it once it gets a lot easier as you become a "known" quantity to the health dept ( also known and the dept of NO)

C5dad 02-01-2011 11:35 AM

Re: Mobile oven health/catering/etc permits
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Grimaldi (Post 107030)
Personally, I don't buy all the 'regulations protect the public's health argument'. We have never been more a regulated and a less healthy society than currently. It is ok to sell chemical laden foods, ammoniated slaughter house floor scrapings as hamburger, diabetes causing HFCS and cancer causing artificial sweeteners, and artery clogging hydrogenated fats as approved foods...not to mention franken foods (GMO) and antibiotic and hormone laced products.

Grimaldi - you really should not restrain yourself like that - it raises your blood pressure.

All joking aside, I know down here in AZ, food handlers card (each county requires one) is a prerequisite for all things food ($25 plus a few hours training) then comes the fun. I keep thinking about the mobile oven myself, though wonder if the wife would kill me for building another oven then starting something like this after growing up in the restaurant biz!

GotRocks 02-02-2011 06:31 AM

Re: Mobile oven health/catering/etc permits
 
Grimaldi, I both agree and disagree with you.
Lets look at some of these yahoo's that are licensed and the crap that they pull.
Here is one that made the national news a few years back, I woman ran a daycare center, and she ran a catering business too. She sickened nearly 100 people because she decided to prep her chicken salad at the daycare center, shortly after changing a diaper. And no handwash in between. I'll leave the details out so nobody barfs on the puter.

She was Licensed, and should have known better! Now imagine someone with zero formal training making and selling food at a festival. (Coolers? Awk, 60 degrees should be good enough to hold partially cooked pork)

I have guys working for me that went through the serv-safe course, got certified, and I see stupid moves from them on a daily basis!

Yes many inspectors also do not even know the laws they are entrusted to enforce, and some try to make up their own laws too. I do not know which is worse.


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