Ca Food Law - Will You Switch From Comm Kitchen To Home?

Business By mburkett Updated 3 Oct 2012 , 5:17am by Amylou

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mburkett Posted 1 Oct 2012 , 4:17pm
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For all you CA business owners who are currently renting commercial space: Do you plan to switch to a home based business now that AB1616 has been signed or will you stick with your current business plan and continue working in your kitchens?

I'm curious to see. I currently rent space in a commercial kitchen and have really mixed feelings about this. I don't want the limitations such as "no cream fillings" (that means no cream cheese for my Red Velvet). I'm comfortable in my kitchen, I have storage for product in bulk and it's always clean and has no family distractions. On the other hand, it's A LOT less overhead to work from home. I also have the option to build out a "showroom/tasting room" in an empty office at my kitchen. It's a bit of a rough location but it gives me "drive-by" recognition and a more professional appearance.

I feel like moving to a home-based business is a step "backwards" professionally but it's very tempting financially. How do other established bakers/decorators feel?

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FromScratchSF Posted 1 Oct 2012 , 5:13pm
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First, I do believe you are wrong about cream cheese icing falling in a "cream filling" category. Cream cheese American Icing is shelf stable in every other state anywhere. I don't think the new law is reclassifying foods that are considered shelf stable.

Every day I have a new mixed emotion about this.

Bottom line, I can't imagine attempting to make the stuff I make at home - I don't have the room and I'd probably kill myself if I could only make 3 dozen cupcakes at a time in the oven! I will be sticking with my commercial kitchen. First, I've already paid for all the permits, licenses and fees, so I have no limitations selling anything to anyone anywhere in any setting. Second, the $30K cap is really low for the area I live in. Maybe not so much in other parts of CA but for me, since I'm established, it's way too low. Third, I get referral business from the other caterers I work around. Most of the time they just need something and I'm there so they order it from me. If I wasn't there I wouldn't get that order. I also like "going to work" and socializing with my peers.

And fourth, since I make wedding cakes this is the main reason - I saw this coming so I've spent the last 2 years positioning myself as a high-end cake maker, really polishing my skills and finding my style. The odds that some new home baker could pop on the market, make the type of stuff I make as well as I make it is pretty slim. I think it's going to be a bunch of cupcake bakers that can do the "rustic" style of wedding cake, if that. I think the wedding industry has moved on from the rustic flowers-in-mason-jars look.

What I think this will mean for me is I will see my weekly custom cupcake sales slip because all these foolios are gong to undercut the heck out of me, but I don't think this will effect my wedding cake sales. The person looking for the type of cake I make in the pricepoint I'm in isn't going to go with someone cheap, making stuff at home, with no portfolio or a portfolio of cakes made with very little skill.

And if I'm wrong, and I see my overall sales totally slip, I'll have to revise my scope of business. I do have a "plan B" and even a "plan C" which I don't want to share at this time. Every business should always have one, no matter what! You never know when the world moves on - you have to move with it!

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mburkett Posted 1 Oct 2012 , 5:43pm
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Jennifer, everything you say validates my gut feelings. I would never expect you to switch out of your kitchen, Changing would be a huge dis-service to what you've already established (I've follow your blog and FB for awhile).

On another note, I didn't think that cream cheese was shelf stable regardless. That's news to me. I've always treated that with care and refrigerated as long as possible.

I currently run a different business than you. I'm fairly new to this professionally and I'm gradually building my business. I specialize more in birthday and smaller occasion cakes and I'm slowly adding wedding to my portfolio.

I feel that you're correct that there will be a bunch more "cupcake bakers" and maybe some smaller scale b-day cakes. I don't expect many to pop up with more elaborate and sculpted work that I do. I do expect to be undercut on basic birthday cakes but Safeway already does a good job on that. I just don't do "traditional" stuff. I can't complete with that nor do I want to.

Thanks for your input. Have a fellow baker/business person share their thoughts is validating.

On an unrelated note....I was looking at classes at Baking Arts in SF. I assume you're familiar with them based on some of your work. Would you recommend classes, DVD's, etc?


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FromScratchSF Posted 1 Oct 2012 , 7:46pm
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Hi Michelle!

I have taken a few classes with at Baking Arts! How could I not, it's literally 2 blocks from my condo icon_biggrin.gif

I think it's a mixed bag as far as what you want to learn and how much the entire trip will cost you. The classes themselves are already pricey, but add in hotel and you have a very spendy trip. People don't realize how obscene hotels are here!

The classes that would be worth it to me are the ones that will teach you stuff you know you will be able to use in the future and will really add to your skill because it will probably be a $3,000 trip. I adore Richard, but I think Mother of Cake in PA might be the better go-to. PA air fair is cheap, hotels are cheap, food and transportation is cheap, and they are getting some really extraordinary instructors from all over the world.

As for DVDs, again, depends on what you want to learn.

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mburkett Posted 1 Oct 2012 , 8:11pm
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I'm just an hour out of the city in Livermore. I get there as much as I can! I LOVE IT!

Mother of Cakes is hosting Cake Love 2012 in Vancouver in a in a couple of weeks. I toyed with that idea but spent a little bit too much at ICES this year. Jennifer Dontz is coming to SF 10/20-10/21 and Oakland 10/22-10/23.

Thanks for the input. I'm really thinking considering a couple of the cake classes.

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scp1127 Posted 2 Oct 2012 , 6:14am
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Hi Jen,

Just a question... neither of my states considers cream cheese buttercream shelf stable. It is considered dairy and must adhere to the 4 hour rule. Both of my states, especially MD, is a full FDA requirement state.

I can do a few little things to give me a little more time, but it's not a lot of leeway.

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costumeczar Posted 2 Oct 2012 , 1:44pm
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the VA health dept gave me trouble about IMBC, so cream cheese is definitely on their no-cottage-food list. I don't know what CA will say about it, but if it's anything that needs to be refrigerated I doubt they'll let you use it as a home baker in CA, but that would just be my guess.

On the topic of the DVDs, I got the baking arts chocolate stripe wrap DVD, and it's the ONLY cake decorating video I ever learned anything from. I'd definitely recommened that one. Richard's super soothing voice put me to sleep about twenty times while I was trying to watch it, though, so be warned. He says in it that he talks that way during the classes to emphasize the slowness of the process, and he wasn't kidding.

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Amylou Posted 3 Oct 2012 , 5:17am
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Well this law passed just as I am getting ready to break ground on converting my garage into a licensed kitchen. I toyed with stopping the project and just doing it in my home kitchen, but I like the fact that I will have a separate space, no non-perishable rules to follow, and hopefully a marketing edge. I've already put the money into my building and health dept fees so I'd hate to throw that away. If this bill had passed a year ago I probably would have gone with the home kitchen...but now I'm excited to be getting my own space!

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