Starting a food business: a Cook Tucson member’s experience

My name is Sue Ann Hockman. This year, I started my food business in Tucson selling frozen Cornish pasties (Past-eez), Snowbird Pasties.  Finding a well-outlined guide was a challenge when I went through the process, so I want to share my experience to help you get started too. It can be overwhelming figuring it all out, but I made it through the licensing process and so can you.

Apply for a license

First, you must decide whether you will be a catering service, a manufacturing company, or a mobile food establishment. Once you figure this out, go to the Pima County Health Department website. Click on the link based on the type of food business you will be starting and it will tell you what you need to prepare for your visit to the health department. I used the following list for Limited Food Manufacturing:

  1. Create a marketing plan: I just followed the list that was provided.
  2. Written Agreement with your business and Cook Tucson – This is the Kitchen Facility Use Agreement you fill out with Cook Tucson. I did not have to notarize it like the website says. You will need to submit a copy to the health department.
  3. Make a complete list of the food you want to make. If you want to add foods later you will have to do more paperwork with the health department.
  4. Next is the fun part. You need to make a list of all the ingredients in the food you will be selling, and describe how you make it. Detail the process as much as possible.
  5. List all the equipment you will use to make your products. They do not need to be A.N.S.I. like it says, but the equipment does need to be able to be cleaned and sanitized completely.
  6. List how you will deliver the food and any equipment you will need to keep it safe, for instance, if it needs to be kept hot or cold.
  7. List the tamper-resistant packaging you will be using including the manufacturer, and bring a sample to the health department.
  8. Labeling: make sure you list what is in your products. Check food items you have at home for examples. Also, make sure you list any allergy foods separately on the label. Bring a sample of your labels to the health department.
  9. List any training you have completed, for instance, your Food Safety Certification. Cook Tucson has a person with a Food Manager’s Certification so you don’t need that classification unless you want to get it.

Now that you have your paperwork in order it’s time to head to the health department. When you give them your paperwork, you will need to pay for your permit. There is a range depending on what type of permit is needed, mine was $200. Don’t worry if you are missing anything because after reviewing your paperwork they will send you an email to let you know if you need anything else. After they give you the okay, you will need to pay your inspection fee of $56 and schedule the inspection.

Cook Tucson Requirements

Before you can schedule your inspection with the health department there are a few things for you to take care of at Cook Tucson.

  1. Business Liability Insurance – You can check different places for quotes. I purchased my insurance online from FLIP: Food Liability Insurance Program. It was $299 for the year, which was the best quote I found. I also liked this company because I could get the insurance started the same day.
  2. Pay the security deposit at Cook Tucson. This can be done online at cooktucson.cobot.me. Cobot is our member scheduling and billing program. Once you complete the Cook Tucson Kitchen Facility Use Agreement, you will be given access to the site. On the Help Desk tab, you will find videos on how to clean the equipment as well as other information.
  3. Schedule an orientation at Cook Tucson. These orientations take about an hour and cover the scheduling tool, how to use equipment, kitchen access and policies.

Health Department Inspection

Now you can schedule your inspection. My initial inspection with the health department took about 30 minutes. It included checking the handwashing sinks for the 100-degree temp, soap, paper towels and garbage cans. Next, she checked the three-compartment sink and dishwasher. Make sure to point out the soap and sanitizer that we use. Also, point out the sanitizer strips and know how to use them. The cooler and freezer will be checked for the proper temperature. You’ll also need to know where to find critical information which is posted on the wall. Make sure you check these things out before the inspector comes so you know where everything is. Don’t forget to have your thermometer handy. I was told that I would be called in about a month to have my follow-up inspection scheduled. This inspection will include watching me prep and make my pasties. I am still waiting for this inspection. FYI, always make sure you are prepping and cooking according to the health codes when you are at Cook Tucson because even though you don’t have an inspection you never know when someone else may show up with an inspector and you could be written up for violations.

Refer to http://www.CookTucson.com/Services/ for more helpful information. Hurry and get this busy work done because I look forward to having you join me in the kitchen.

About Sue Ann

Sue Ann is the owner of Snowbird Pasties and a Yooper from Ontonagon, Michigan. Her grandma was from Laurium, MI on the Keweenaw Peninsula, the area is commonly known as the Copper Country, who taught her everything she knows about making pasties. Today, she runs a successful food business, delivering her pasties across the city to customers directly and through resellers.

 

2017-11-29T13:01:03+00:00 September 28th, 2017|Categories: News|Tags: , , |

2 Comments

  1. Ann DeBellis October 2, 2017 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    Sue Ann, thank you for sharing this valuable information. I am considering a similar venture and was wondering if you could spare an hour or two to discuss some of my concerns.
    Thank you for your time and best of luck to you!

    Ann

    • corinnetso October 3, 2017 at 1:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Ann – thanks for your comment. I’ve forwarded your request on to Sue Ann directly.

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