More than six months after the Chicago City Council legalized cooking onboard food trucks, the city on Thursday issued its first license for it to Dan Salls, owner of The Salsa Truck.
An ecstatic Salls said he passed his health and fire inspection Wednesday and finished his paperwork Thursday afternoon. By Tuesday he hopes to be searing meat, grilling quesadillas and warming tortillas aboard his truck to serve with his salsas to hungry Chicagoans.
Salls, a former financial adviser who quit his job to go into the salsa business, said he will likely serve his first hot meal at the 600 W. Chicago Ave. food truck stand Tuesday. He has publicly invited Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be his first customer.
"I think it would be a great press opportunity for him to finally get the monkey off of everyone's back," Salls said of the long, contentious process that has finally led to the city's first MFP cooking license, for mobile food preparer.
For more than two years, food truck activists had been lobbying the city to allow onboard cooking, as opposed to selling only precooked and packaged items. Proposals were stalled for more than a year at the committee level until Emanuel presented his own version of a modified ordinance, which passed in late July.
"This is just the beginning, but we're excited to see our first MFP hit the streets," said Rosemary Krimbel, who leads the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. "We want potential food truck owners to know that we are here to help, including newly offered truck consultations with the Fire and Health Departments to ease the licensing process. We want to see more food trucks serving Chicago."
Although Salls says he is thrilled to be the first licensed onboard cooking operator, he acknowledges that his truck is not the "classic West Coast-type food truck." By that he means that he did not need to outfit his truck to conform to what some feel is the city's overly strict code on gas lines and exhaust hoods.
He will simply use an electric grill to heat his tacos, quesadillas and carnitas onboard, making rules on gas lines and hoods irrelevant to his inspection.
Next month Salls hopes to open a bricks-and-mortar restaurant called The Garage that can also serve as a commissary for servicing other cooking trucks.
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