By Julie Watts

SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) — California could soon be the first state in the nation to allow people to sell meals that they prepare in their home kitchens.

Some are calling it a recipe for opportunity.

A few times a month, Renee Wash cooks up a big batch of food in her cozy kitchen and sells it online through a start-up called Josephine.

“It gives me an opportunity to live out a dream and the dream is to feed people,” Wash said.

The only problem is that it’s technically illegal.

In California, most food that’s sold to the public must be prepared in a commercial kitchen that meets state codes.

But now a bill making its way through the state legislature, AB 626, aims to legalize homemade meal sales, provided the cook gets training in food safety and the kitchen undergoes regular inspections.

The bill is sponsored by Josephine, a company known as the Esty for food.

It contends the new law would “create massive economic opportunities for the people that need them most,” as Josephine’s co-founder pointed out back in 2015.

“A lot of our cooks — 33 percent of them — are first generation immigrants,” said Charlie Wang, Josephine’s co-founder.

Christina Oatfield, of the Sustainable Economies Law Center, says she’s all for giving home cooks more opportunities to use their skills.

“There are so many people who have an interest in selling homemade food,” Oatfield said.

But she wants those who do the actual cooking to get a bigger share of the pie, not the third-parties enabling them to sell.

“The future of homemade food and the law around homemade food should be controlled by the people who will be producing food in home kitchens and consumers. Our concern is that Josephine is driving this bill, the details of AB262,” Oatfield said.

But for home cooks like Renee, they just want to legally keep cooking and keep customers happy.

The full assembly is set to vote on the measure next week.

California does currently allow home cooks to make and sell items like cookies and pasta items, that don’t need refrigeration.

Meals, however, don’t make the cut. At least for now.

Comments (2)
  1. They already DO, and have been for decades: You only see them in what they call “diverse, working class” neighborhoods. These are the tamale & chicharonnes sellers in East Palo Alto and et al. One illegal seller (it is illegal, but tolerated) was arrested recently & his monies seized by police (standard procedure, btw) and it created a FIRE STORM on the internet, as if the cop was some monster, stealing a man’s earnings. This was not the case- but you can’t convince a person once their mind’s made up. The reason we have laws is for our own safety, namely food handling safety. There is NO way to regulate or enforce safe food handling when someone cooks in their own kitchen. At least in a restaurant there would be witnesses if someone licks their fingers, or doesn’t wipe or wash hands after visiting the restroom.

  2. Isaac O'Leary says:

    AB 626 has since passed unanimously in the CA Senate and Assembly! It’s a huge step forward for bringing the power back to the people to determine what food and nutrition is available for their communities. This Northern California based organization Foodnome is working to spread the word on AB 626 and what it means for passionate food entrepreneurs.