“Please Provide Additional Information”

We had designed the kitchen in our commercial space, the Central Collective, with a professional architect who had worked on kitchens in commercial spaces before. We had executed the build to this point with a skilled professional contractor. With our representative from KaTom, we had discussed the kind of work we’d be doing in the kitchen and the kind of equipment we needed. Even so, I couldn’t help but feel nervous as I pressed “send” on the email with our application to the health department.

While I had had a pretty easy time getting my trailer plans approved, the scale of this project was very different. The trailer is a small space with just a few pieces of equipment. The kitchen, on the other hand, has multiple sinks, complicated plumbing, an underground grease trap, and a hood and exhaust system. That’s because while the trailer is just for serving, the commissary kitchen is where all the handling of food will happen. I anticipated much more scrutiny on this space.


Photos by Shawn Poynter

And I was right. The next day, I got an email reply asking for answers to some further questions.

Please provide information on the required air gap at the end of the pressure relief line of the water heater.

Please provide additional information on the location of solid waste disposal.

Splash shields are needed in the following locations: if food handling is taking place in the front area, and a hand wash sink is needed, splash shields may also be required.

I felt a pit growing in my chest. I thought, “I don’t know the answers to these questions! Does that mean that after all this, the space isn’t going to work? We’ve already ordered the equipment! What if we have nowhere to put it?”

I calmed myself down and called our contractor. No luck. He was busy at another site and couldn’t call me back.

I breathed.

“The Required Air Gap”

It dawned on me that there was ultimately one person responsible for making sure the plans passed inspection, and that was me. We’d hired our architect and contractors to build the kitchen and had called KaTom to advise us on equipment, but the scary thing about building your own kitchen is that regardless of how helpful such folks can be, the fact remains: meeting the health department’s standards is entirely on the shoulders of the business owner.

I searched through our blueprints. Some answers were there: the materials that would compose the walls and ceilings, the type of door the kitchen would have. The rest I was able to find from the spec sheets our sales representative at KaTom provided. I sent along the information.

And today, I jumped.

“The Pressure Relief Line”

When larger problems arise, I’m often able to step back and see the big picture in a calm and thoughtful way. It’s smaller matters—the little details and red tape—that send me over the edge and make me wonder if I should throw in the tiles.

But pushing through made me realize that through all my mishaps and misjudgments, I am learning to navigate the wild world of kitchen creation. Of course, the real work in the commissary space is just beginning. Next week we’ll be installing our hood and vent system. Then, in the coming weeks, the walls and ceilings and sinks and stove. I’m sure there will be plenty of panicky moments during that process, too.

For now, I’m jumping up and down, celebrating one little sentence sent from the health department.

Dale Mackey
Dale Mackey

Dale Mackey is a Chicago native who moved to Knoxville in 2007 and has no plans of leaving. She spends most of her time making and selling fried pies, but when she finds a free moment, she enjoys writing, eating, playing with her cats, playing with her husband, and going on adventures. She's named after cowgirl Dale Evans, and hopes she does her namesake justice.

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