One of the most asked questions at Fire Within is: “How do I personally navigate the Health Department in my neck of the woods?”
That is a tricky question, but one that can be answered….
Health department requirements for mobile wood-fired cooking will vary from state to state. They will probably vary from county to county as well as city to city. All of these codes and regulations have been put into place to make sure that all of your patrons are getting the most protection from elements that can be beyond our control.
There are steps you can take to help smooth the process of getting the “green light” from your local health department…
One of our biggest and most important steps we recommend is to familiarize yourself with your local health department regulations. The more research you let yourself do, the more prepared you will be with the needed information you will have to provide them. Call the department and speak to an agent in the department. Like you, they want to see success in your business, and they will be a valuable resource for you. It goes without saying: never be adversarial.
Depending on your local regulations, there may be fees involved in the process. Have a Health Department budget set aside for this. You may be able to find deductions come tax time if the fees are higher than normal.
Check your area for any free Health Department courses. Some areas will offer Food Handler courses, servsafe classes, or Certified Food Protection Manager courses. If they are not free, remember you have that Health Department budget already in place!
The majority of Health Departments in the U.S. want food prepared in a safe and sanitary environment. To do this, many of our oven owners use commissary kitchens to meet this requirement. And the best part? Many have found kitchens that cost next to nothing. Check with your local churches, schools, and co-ops. Many times, the use of the kitchen can be negotiated to simply providing a pizza party once a month!
Once you have all the material and information readily available to present to the Health Department, make sure it is all placed professionally into a 3-ring binder for their viewing. Remember, they are there to just help keep your valued customers as safe as possible – and guarantee as much success for you as well – so listen, take notes, and be courteous. Once they see that you are a responsible business owner, they are more likely to help you solve any issues that arise.