By Monica Eng
10:22 PM CST, January 31, 2013
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 that he passed his health and fire inspection on Wednesday and finished his paperwork on Thursday afternoon. By Tuesday, he hopes to be searing meat, grilling quesadillas and warming tortillas on board 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 first cooking license called an MFP (for mobile food preparer).
For more than two years, food-truck activists had been lobbying the city to allow onboard cooking, as opposed to restricting food offerings to those that had been pre-cooked and packaged. Proposals were stalled for more than a year at the committee level until Emanuel presented his own version of a modified ordinance last summer, 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, 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 which can also serve as a commissary for servicing other cooking trucks.
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