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WA Legislators Consider Whether To Allow Chefs To Cook Commercially At Home

Shef Screenshot

A Washington Senate committee is considering a bill that would encourage the development of small home-based food businesses.

The legislation is a response to people who are trying to make a living during the pandemic, who may have lost their jobs and have begun making food they sell to people in their communities.Alvin Salehi is one of the founders of an organization called Shef, which helps people who are budding food entrepreneurs. He testified at a committee hearing on Tuesday.

“Selling home-cooked food, as Rep. Frame [Noel Frame, the sponsor of this bill] has also mentioned, is happening and has been happening for a long time through What’s App, Instagram, Craig’s List, Next Door. But, frankly, there are no regulations around it and we want to help lift home cooks out of the shadows and give them the opportunity to cook legally and safely. HB 1258 will actually do that, which is really good for the community," he said.

The proposal is running into resistance from people in public health and Samantha Louderback from the Washington Hospitality Association.

“At a time where the importance of public health is crucial, a crucial part of our everyday lives, we’re concerned that this legislation exempts certain food businesses from important food safety requirements that have been established and implemented to protect public health," she said.

But Louderback says her organization approves of the concept. She says it has worked with state officials to enact an emergency rule during the pandemic to ensure that home-based cooks can rent kitchen space in restaurants during the hours the restaurants are closed. She says the hope is that that emergency rule can be made permanent.

The micro kitchen bill has passed the state House. It’s scheduled for a committee vote later this week.