New Illinois law gives home cooks a way to sell beyond farmers’ markets

Danielle Robinson operates Dottie’s Kitchen – named after her grandmother – in her suburban Chicago home. She makes blueberry, lemon, cherry, almond and banana breads. Robinson sells his produce at farmers’ markets in the area.

“My goal is to eventually have my own commercial kitchen space, whether it’s in a retail or warehouse,” she said.

Robinson is a cottage food entrepreneur, a home cook who prepares long-life foods such as bread, cakes, jams and cookies.

The Illinois General Assembly passed legislation this spring that will allow entrepreneurs to make direct sales and deliveries to customers beyond farmers’ markets. They will be able to sell their products statewide with no monthly sales cap of $ 1,000.

The law comes into force in January. By then, Robinson said, she plans to revamp her website and hopes to be able to serve more clients.

Robinson has registered as a food cabin operator with her local health department. This is what bakers are required to do. In Chicago, only 22 food cabin operators have registered since 2017, according to the city’s public health department. But Beth Kregor, director of the local branch of the Institute for Justice at the University of Chicago Law School, said many home cooks in the state are operating in secret due to the restrictions. Illinois was behind some other states in home food businesses.

“Illinois really had a patchwork of different laws in different places, and you could cross city borders and find you had totally different opportunities,” Kregor said.

The pandemic has brought people back to the kitchen, where they dusted off ancestral recipes or baked sourdough bread. Kregor remembers talking to a woman who just wanted to sell bread from her porch.

“What could be healthier, more traditional? She used recipes that her grandmother had used. Her grandmother had sold loaves of bread to her neighbors. And she wanted to continue this tradition. But it wasn’t allowed and she couldn’t convince the local government to pass a law allowing her to do so, ”Kregor said.

Kregor said she believes more people will register when the law changes, and then they can proudly advertise their businesses, without going into hiding. State registration fees will double to $ 50.

Florida also passed a law in June that gives more flexibility to home cooks. Cottage cooks start small to see if they can evolve or experiment with an array of recipes.

This model may be economically feasible for aspiring home cooks like Karla Armor in Chicago. One summer morning, she was baking corn bread. The recipe was half blueberry, half cranberry orange. In 2018, the home baker founded La Matriz, in Spanish for “the uterus”.

“Because I find that when you cook, there is not a lot of noise. It’s a nice kind of calm, ”Armor said. She doesn’t have the money to rent a commercial kitchen, so she’s a home baker.

“If I can at least work from home and do that slow build to the point where I can walk into a rental kitchen,” Armor said.

And cook his specialty: scones.

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