Home baker cooks up local law

River Forest OKs ordinance allowing consumer sales

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By Melissa Elsmo

Food Writer

Former attorney and passionate baker, Laura Klein Riff, put her studious mind to work to pave the way for her emerging scratch baking and cake decorating business, Butter Cream Flour. Thanks to the home-baker's efforts, the River Forest village board unanimously passed a home kitchen operation ordinance on June 22.

"I knew I would have to jump through hoops to get my business up and running, but I was surprised to learn River Forest did not have an ordinance allowing for home baking."

Cottage laws in Illinois originally allowed for bakers to sell their home-baked goods at farmers markets exclusively but were adapted in 2014 to allow for direct sales to customers. Still, individual municipalities are required to adopt home baking ordinances, also known as cupcake laws, for state-wide cottage laws to take effect. Oak Park adopted their "cupcake law" in 2016.

"It can be intimidating to try to change local laws," said Klein Riff. "I worked alone on this but was able to draw on my law background and lay it out pretty clearly for the village board."

Klein Riff petitioned the Village of River Forest to adopt such an ordinance on May 5. On June 22, the Development Review Board, the village board and Village President Cathy Adduci, unanimously voted in favor of allowing small home bakers who bake breads, cookies, cakes, pastries and fruit pies to produce those items in their own home kitchens and sell directly to consumers.

"Allowing home kitchen operations in River Forest is a great way for residents to break into the food industry. It's a tough industry and getting started can be difficult and expensive," said Adduci. "This is all very safe. The State of Illinois, and our health inspection consultant, have carefully vetted the type of goods that can be produced safely in a home kitchen."

Klein Riff also recommended home kitchen operators take a food safety class through the Illinois Department of Public Health and River Forest took the recommendation. The River Forest health inspector will review all applications and proof of training before operations can commence.

"I was impressed with how the River Forest village board handled it; they were swift and efficient," said Klein Riff. "I appreciate the board's willingness to indulge me on this and for showing support for all River Forest home bakers."

For Klein Riff home baking is a steppingstone to opening her own brick and mortar bakery down the road, but for now offers her the ability to do what she loves at a pace she is comfortable with. Her passion for baking has always been bubbling beneath the surface and she can confidently sell her "impossibly moist" cakes with sleek and current design elements from her River Forest home.

"Having a home baking ordinance in place opens up a lot of opportunities for people," said Klein Riff. "I think there is a lot of hidden talent in River Forest who will benefit from this ordinance."

Since her success in River Forest, small scale entrepreneurs from Vernon Hills have reached out to Klein Riff for assistance in getting a similar home baking ordinance passed in their area.

Email: melissa@oakparkeats.com

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