Cleaning out my kitchen...

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Senior Cook
Jan 8, 2010
Washington, D.C.
I've been watching Jamie Oliver's new show "Food Revolution" and it really has me thinking. I've always loved cooking meals for my family, but I haven't really ever paid attention to the preservatives in the food I buy or in the food my children eat at school for that matter. Anyways, the show has me really motivated to start a healthy catering business from my home. It's something I've always wanted to do, but I don't know where to start. Thinking of ordering some restaurant supply stuff, like a commercial refrigerator, stove, etc. and my husband is fully on board. I'm wondering if anyone knows of a good online store for kitchen supplies? I also would love tips on which brands are best.

Any help would be great! Here's to healthy eating & beautiful cooking...
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Before you start making any financial commitments, go the the government agency or agencies that govern commercial food related business and find out what will be required as far as equipment, licenses, training, etc.

Some jurisdictions' regulations can be daunting.
Agree with Andy. I don't know of any catering business that operates out of a private residence. The reason? Zoning regulations. Most urban areas do not allow businesses, particularly food businesses run from your home. One reason is, your neighbors don't want the additional vehicle traffic that normally accompanies an active business. The Health Department will likely want to see a sign off from the building and zoning department, prior to issuing you any permits. They will be particularly interested in how you plan to keep your hot food hot, and your cold food cold. You can't just load it in the back of the family SUV and go on to your event.

Once you get it there, you also have to keep it hot or cold.
Unless things have changed in the last couple of decades, it's just not doable in DC. At least not from your residence. A friend of mine from culinary school wanted to do just that, but ended up leasing a church kitchen to work from. Between a well outfitted truck, the church's kitchen, and rented/leased service equipment, he did very well with very little.

If you have a detached garage, enough money to refit it, and are willing to go through the hassles of getting a zoning variance, that may be doable. You could probably find a failed restaurant space nearby available to lease, completely furnished for far less investment than doing a total build out.

As for equipment...buying online is great for CD's and books, but you're going to get the best bargains for kitchen equipment in your own back yard. Restaurants and caterer's go out of business daily. The market is flooded with used equipment that can normally be had for near giveaway prices. Just check the classifieds in the Post, or hit the yellow pages for restaurant suppliers.

Aside from getting a kitchen together, you'll need to find out just what kind of permits and licenses are going to be required. I remember, just to cook in DC, I had to have a NIFDA certificate and a health certificate. I would imagine to actually operate a place, there's a lot more red tape. Health inspectors are notoriously officious. I remember one that came in with a tape measure to check clearances on the hoods, and they all have a thermometer sticking out of their pocket that will be used....a lot!
I must agree with everyone. Home food processing is allowed in certain states like Michigan, Georgia, and a few more, but the Gov. will make you jump through a few hurdles and you will have to have a separate entrance, abide by certain fire codes state and county and a mess of other stuff. First start by contacting your local health department or whoever regulations commercial food processing in your area. You may also check out the State Dept. of Agriculture, in some states you are permitted to bake but not cook. Please don't purchase anything until you really investigate, then there is the thing of discussing the venture with your local zoning board. Have mercy, it is really more than a notion...but not impossible! Oh yeah, you can also start by using a kitchen incubator or licensed shared kitchen.

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