California's new Cottage Law was hailed as a great step forward in allowing bakers and cooks to be able to use their home kitchen instead of going to a state certified commercial kitchen (which can be far away and/or costly). Lots of food artisans have been afraid to explore certifying their kitchen because the health department (especially here in LA) is notoriously terrible to deal with. That's what baker Linzy Kearbey of Parchment Cookies thought and put off the process. We asked her what it was like once she decided to get certified.
1) Can you tell us a little bit about your business and why you thought the Cottage Law was right for it?
I own a small, artisanal cookie company called Parchment Cookies. I started out as just an online decorated sugar cookie business but have slowly grown into making and selling other types of cookies, and now have a small retail location and sell wholesale to local coffee shops and delis. For a year I was driving an hour back and forth to Pasadena to use a commercial kitchen I was required to use. It was expensive in both rent and time. So when the Cottage Law passed, I knew I would be applying for it. I'm a procrastinator though and I didn't get to it until June.
2) What was the process like?
The process was much easier than I thought it would be, which is why I lagged for so long on it. Since I live in Long Beach I was able to go through the Long Beach Health Department instead of Los Angeles County, saving lots of time. All I had to do was turn in my business license downtown and at the same visit met with the planning dept. to get my apartment approved. I had to take the approved papers and another application to the health dept. the following week we set up an appointment to have my kitchen inspected.
3) There are two types of certification. Why did you choose the certification you did?
There are two certificates you can choose between. A is for retail only and B is for wholesale and retail. I chose B since I was already selling wholesale to coffee shops and knew this is what I prefer to do in the long run.
4) Did you have any help or resources that were particularly valuable as you went through the process?
I didn't have help from anyone, if you go to your local health department's website you can find all of the information you need there, with all the paperwork to download along with instructions.
5) What was surprising about the process? What was discouraging?
I was surprised at how easy it was to apply, and especially surprised how easy the inspection was. You hear so many horror stories about what restaurants have to go through I was expecting worse with my private kitchen. The inspectors came, made sure I had hot water, went over a couple things and that was it. Piece of cake!
6) What advice do you have for others going through it?
Don't procrastinate like I did. The process is so easy and totally worth it, especially if you are paying rent at a kitchen.
7) What options has this opened up for your business?
This has really made running my business so much easier, and now that I can bake from home I am able to pursue more stores for potential wholesale accounts.
8) This law isn't for everyone. Who should and shouldn't pursue it?
There is a small list of foods that can apply for this, all non-potentially hazardous like: cookies, candy, jams and jellies, and bread. There is a list on the application you have to fill out so you will know if your product is approved or not.
9) Anything else to add?
You will need your Managers Food Safety Permit I took the class through this company.
Here is a link to the Long Beach Health Department's website with all the info you need.