Home chefs will soon be able to operate a ‘mini restaurant‘ from their kitchens, as Solano County becomes one of only several counties in California to offer certification in Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation.
More commonly known as MEHKO, this permit will allow chefs to prepare, cook and serve food prepared in their home kitchen directly to consumers, either through delivery, take-out or dine-in at the house. Food must be cooked and served on the same day and approved MEHKO’s can serve up to 30 meals a day, or 60 meals per week.
MEHKO was established in California in 2019, with the passage of AB 626. Chefs can participate in MEHKO if their county has opted into the program. Solano County began that process in early 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put it on hold – until now. Solano County’s Board of Supervisors officially approved MEHKO in March.
“I am thrilled to have this program in Solano County,” said Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown. “I believe the home kitchens will provide economic opportunities for our residents, particularly our military spouses at Travis Air Force Base. This program will not only help our entrepreneurs, but it will also provide better protection for customers as we provide oversight of home-based kitchens. It’s a win-win.”
The MEHKO program also establishes regulations for home chefs, such as inspection and training requirements, that never existed in California until now. A MEHKO certification is one way a chef can show their business is operating safely and legally in their county.
Prior to now, home-based food businesses have been able to obtain a county certification as a Cottage Food Operation. However, unlike a Cottage Food business, MEHKO kitchens are permitted to cook with potentially hazardous foods, such as milk, eggs, meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, and vegetables.
Solano-Napa SBDC Director Tim Murrill has been following the progress of the MEHKO program since California legislatures approved the law in 2019. “This program is perfect for those who like to cook and have an entrepreneurial spirit but may not have the financial resources to start a restaurant or other food services business,” he said.
Solano County is now accepting applications for its MEHKO program. You can access the application and learn more about the program by searching for “MEHKO” on solanocounty.com or CLICK HERE
The Solano-Napa SBDC and the NorCal SBDC Restaurant Program are offering webinars introducing the program, the certification process, and requirements for the home chefs.
Register at solanosbdc.org/events.