“I have the dining room here, and then my deep freezer that my grandparents gave me…”
Julie Contreras is showing me around her bakery. Which is to say, the living room and kitchen of her tiny Southwest Houston apartment.
(sounds of a cake mixer)
Contreras bakes all kinds of cakes: luscious French vanilla cakes with violet icing flowers; 4 tiered pearly pink cakes covered in buttercream; and a mint green dinosaur cake you’d swear was a stuffed animal. As a stay at home mom, she used to make and sell these cakes out of her apartment.
“That smells really good!” “I know…”
But there was a problem: it’s not legal. Contreras found out that it’s against the law in Texas to sell a cake baked in your home. But her husband works two jobs just to pay the bills, so she says that the extra $200 a month would be a huge help. She felt it was the perfect way to support her family.
“You get this movement, this motivation of, I have this business, and I’m a business owner, and I had found something that I love to do, and I was making money, and being able to help my family with it, …and you just get this roadblock thrown up to you, and you hit it, and it depresses you.”
Until she found out that a group of women across the state was organizing to get a bill passed in the state legislature. The so-called “Baker’s Bill” would allow women to sell home-baked goods if they take a food-handler’s course and label their products.
But there are plenty of people who don’t like this arrangement.
“They say we’re afraid of competition, and I am not afraid of competition, if it’s fair competition”
Kelly Fuller also wanted to bake cakes from home, so she went into debt to build an entirely new kitchen and pay fees as a commercial baker. She doesn’t think the new baker’s law is fair business practice.
“This is giving someone who doesn’t pay the same fees, doesn’t have the same requirements, it gives them a huge financial advantage over someone like me.”
And health officials in several counties are worried, too. Here’s Michael Lindsey, of the Montgomery County Health Department:
“You’re allowing people to prepare food for the general public in private homes, where we cannot go in and inspect these homes for any kind of unsanitary conditions or any kind of temperature violations”
Lindsey points out that homes can have cats, dogs, mice, and of course, children who can carry disease. Under the Baker’s Bill, officials only inspect a home if someone reports a problem.
“Audrey Lynn! Leave that alone…”
Julie Contreras understands these concerns. She points out that 12 other states do allow home baking, with few, if any, health complaints. She just wants to bake.
“We’re all for inspections in our home bakeries, we’re all for keeping it the same, but being able to do it from our home.”
Unfortunately for the cake ladies, the Baker’s Bill died before reaching the full House in Austin. But Contreras and her group vow to keep this issue alive until 2011…until they let them eat cake!
From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Melissa Galvez