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What would it take to turn my home kitchen into a commercial kitchen?

A commercial kitchen is one that meets the fire, health and business codes for your area. You cannot cook out of your home kitchen then deliver or have clients pick up from your home without first having it approved by the local health department.

As a personal chef, you would be cooking out of your clients' kitchens, but just out of curiosity...what would it take to convert your home kitchen into a health department approved kitchen?

Requirements vary for every area, but the following are generally considered standard. Of course it would be ideal to create the kitchen from new construction, but oftentimes, this is not reasonable. So, what does it take to turn your home kitchen into a commercial kitchen?

  • Exhaust hood: This can be the most $$ part of the kitchen and can require remodeling of ductwork and fire suppression equipment. Your standard home with an above the range exhaust hood is not likely going to be powerful enough to pass a health safety inspection.
  • Refrigeration: You'll need to keep your family's food separate than your business food. Spices, produce and meats will need to be stored. Refrigeration will also be required for cooling and storing food prior to delivery. Apart from refrigeration, where will you store your meal prep containers and additional kitchen equipment?
  • Three-compartment dishwashing sink: Each dish needs to be properly sanitized. Sponges and drying towels cannot be used.
  • Produce washing area: This area should be separate than your dishwashing area to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Kitchen surfaces: Each area, from the floor to the walls, needs to be completely washable. Stainless steel is the material of choice in most commercial kitchens.
  • Lighting: Yes, even the amount and distance of light fixtures may be regulated by the health department.

So now you've outfitted your home kitchen and have had it approved by the local health department. The next step is to have the health inspector review your food preparation and delivery processes.

You'll need to write a process worksheet of how produce and meats will travel from source to your client to include:

  • where your meat and produce comes from and how it's stored
  • where and how food is prepared using what utensils and equipment
  • where and how dirty dishes are washed
  • where and how clean dishes are stored
  • where and how food is heated and cooled
  • where and how food is packaged and then transported to the client

A vehicle is required to keep transported food at the proper temperature from leaving the kitchen, while traveling, and finally to the client's home. This vehicle could be a refrigerated truck or a Cambro (insulated storage box), one for hot and one for cooled foods. Keep in mind that a loaded Cambro can be heavy and may require more than one person to move in and out of your vehicle. Also, can your vehicle handle the size of several Cambros?

There's obviously a lot to think about here...and the cost to transform your kitchen, oh my. Well, I can tell you that cooking in client kitchens has very little overhead. It can even be the way you earn enough cash to eventually transform your home kitchen into a health inspector approved commercial kitchen!





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