FLORIDA — Brandon resident Jameel Hakeem makes a living working as a data scientist, but his passion is for cooking. And that’s why he’s excited about a legislative proposal that would legalize home kitchen operations in Florida.

What You Need To Know

  • Florida and most states currently allow for “cottage foods” (such as baked goods, jam, candies) made from home kitchens to be sold to the public

  • Home chefs can produce and sell full meals legally in just a handful of states currently, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah and North Dakota

  • New legislation has been filed for the 2022 session in Florida to allow for home kitchens, with chefs allowed to make up to $250,000 annually

“Any little bit helps, but this is huge,” Hakeem told Spectrum Bay News 9 this week. “I think it’s good for Florida. I think it’s good for Tampa Bay. There are cities around the nation right now that have already seen it.... we’re looking for more laws and legislation that are going to actually help small businesses.”

The legislation — sponsored by Riverview Democrat Andrew Learned in the House (HB 707) and South Florida Democrat Shevrin Jones in the state Senate — would allow a home kitchen operation to sell food products to customers in person or by telephone, email or website, including mobile apps. The food can be delivered by an employee of the home kitchen operation, or by a third-party delivery service.

It would also preempt regulation of home kitchen operations to the state, authorizing the Dept. of Agriculture to investigate complaints, conduct inspections and impose disciplinary actions if required.

“Being able to cook at home gives us an opportunity honestly to deliver a better product,” Hakeem says.

Hakeem, 39, is a Louisiana native who attended culinary school before he began an eight-year stint in the U.S. Army, where he found himself often catering events or being put in charge of large barbeques for his fellow troop members. After the pandemic hit last year, he and some fellow private chefs came together to form a supper club where they prepare seven course prix fixe menus at the Show & Tell kitchen at Tampa’s Armature Works.

Rep. Learned says he was inspired to write the bill in part because of Lennise Germany, the CEO and founder of Livy O’s, who began her business by selling meals out of the trunk of her car and catered his wedding last year. She says the proposed law would have been an enormous boost when she was starting out, describing the laborious process she endured.

“When it came to buying the food, then loading it into the car,” Germany says. “Then driving it to the commercial kitchen, then unloading- then cooking, then reloading it, then getting it to where it needed to go. And then going back to your storage or your home and unloading again. And so that is – was – certifiably exhausting."

Omar Germany, Lennise’s husband and the co-owner and CFO of Livy O’s, says the proposed legislation is pro-entrepreneurial. “It’s just giving (home chefs) an opportunity and a platform where they can get out there and take that risk,” he says. “It’s definitely a benefit.”

“Simply, the bill empowers home cooks to sell their meals while ensuring food safety standards are maintained,” Learned said in a newsletter he sent out when announcing the proposed legislation earlier this year.

Hakeem says that the only downside he sees if the proposal were to pass would be an initial hit to the commercial kitchen industry.

When asked if he would ever consider working as a chef at a restaurant, Hakeem is hesitant, saying that he’s concerned about “falling into the trapping of just being confined to brick and mortar.”

“You’ve gotta make rent every month,” he says. “You’re dealing with rising food costs.  And if a menu is a menu, I have no power or agency to really change that.”

Florida did pass legislation in 2017 that allows for cottage foods preparers (baked goods, pasta, candies and pies) to sell and accept payment for cottage foods up to $50,000.

If this bill is passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. DeSantis, home kitchen chefs would be allowed to make up to $250,000 annually within the law.