Mpls - St.Paul Magazine Feature
Morgan Dachis tried college. When it didn’t stick, she figured that she could be the youngest server at Manny’s Steakhouse and actually convinced them to hire her. But then the shutdown hit earlier this year, and the 22-year-old found herself without a plan.
So Dachis started cooking for her family and friends as a way to comfort them in the unsettled days—especially with her grandmother’s chicken soup recipe. Before long, people started telling her that she should be selling the soup, along with the challah she had begun baking.
“My mom looked at me and said: You should get business cards,” Dachis says. “And that’s how it started!” Morgan’s Broth and Buns was born with an Instagram handle and a logo, and Dachis started making challah and soup people could order online during the week and pick up curbside from her parents’ Minneapolis home on Fridays.
Word of mouth spread, and she started selling out. A mutual friend messaged me about it, and I put in my order for an everything challah and a quart of soup. Without a doubt, it’s some of the best soup I’ve had—which I might never have tasted if the world hadn’t fallen apart. How’s that for a bright side?
Is selling food out of your home even legal? Yes. One of the ways these kinds of home-kitchen food start-ups are possible is the Minnesota Cottage Food Law. Passed in 2015 and often called the Pickle Bill, this Department of Ag statute allows registered individuals to sell certain handmade foods direct to the consumer from home or at farmers’ markets and events as long as their yearly total earnings cap at $18,000. Going the route of cottage food has long been thought of as an entry path for novice jam makers or hot sauce mavens to generate some early market money and build loyalty for an eventual product launch. But the pandemic is changing that. As I type, there are nearly 600 registered cottage food sellers in Hennepin county alone.
Photo by Caitlin Abrams
Morgan Dachis and her buns
Should we even talk about sourdough? When the lockdown started in March, people here and across the country started baking bread as a way to entertain themselves and possibly save a few bucks or a trip outside. So many people rediscovered the magic of bread baked in their home kitchens, we experienced a national run on yeast and flour. Combine this renewed fascination for cooking with closed restaurants, thousands of suddenly unemployed food workers, and the strong social media habits of those caught up in lockdown, and you have a recipe for food innovation. And it’s not just novices who are finding success selling directly to eaters.
Suddenly, thanks to the pandemic hustle, you can now scroll through Instagram and be hit by the Wednesday fresh pasta menu from Rachaels Pasta Delivery. While Rachael McLeod has been working under cottage law, she’s working on getting fully licensed. She had held pasta pop-ups at breweries before the pandemic, and she turned to Instagram and home delivery when we lost the crowds. “I was just trying to make ends meet during COVID. At this point I absolutely love what this business has become and am very excited for the future and expanding,” she texted me.
Photo Courtesy McLeod
Culurgiones from Rachaels Pasta
Suddenly, through the world of the little screen, things don’t seem so bad when you can order vibrant green handmade nettle spaghetti with a flower-topped container of fresh tomato sauce. Or fat and lovely Sardinian ravioli called culurgiones, bursting with potato and cheddar. Or tortelli con la coda—tortelli with a tail—made with eggs from locally raised Graise Farm chickens and fresh-milled heritage grains from Baker’s Field and stuffed with goat cheese, ricotta, oven-dried tomatoes, and herbs. The process is simple: Send a direct message of what you want to order, and it comes straight to your door on Sunday. But don’t tarry when you see that menu. Orders are limited, and the menu often sells out within 24 hours of posting.
And maybe that’s part of the draw. I will be honest that as of this writing, I have yet to actually score a pint of A to Z Creamery’s ice cream, which comes in creative flavors, such as dill pickle with a peanut butter swirl, strawberry balsamic, and Turned Up Pronto Pup: pancake batter ice cream with ketchup and mustard swirls, plus candied hot dogs. It’s like a sport for me now: Get on the site’s mailing list for an alert when a new flavor is released and click through like the wind. Only about 120–150 pints are made at a time, and they sell out within minutes. Literally, I was entering my credit card info when the mini-donut flavor sold out from underneath me. Owner Zach Vraa works out of a commercial kitchen because ice cream isn’t covered under Cottage Food Law, and he has plans to expand his business but doesn’t see the need for a storefront anytime soon. If you score a pint, you must go to St. Louis Park to pick it up.
Photo by Renn
Chef Eli Renn with chicken for the weekend
Winning at this direct approach isn’t just for pantry and fridge items. Chefs and cooks without restaurants are finding ways onto our plates. Chef Eli Renn, who has worked in many kitchens around town, has launched a weekend pop-up kitchen from his home in Golden Valley. He’s featured everything from chicken tenders to glazed salmon, which you can order in single portions or family-style to pick up for Saturday and Sunday meals. Mecca Bos, who is a writer, podcaster, and longtime chef around town, has started a meal subscription as part of her Patreon page. You can subscribe to her page for $20 a month, and you’ll not only help support her as a freelance writer but also be able to pick up one plate of Mecca-cooked food a month.
There’s talk in the food world of a push to amend the Cottage Food Law by raising the earnings cap so that more people can find some kind of living during record unemployment. It’s proven a simple way of boosting food makers for years, and as more entrepreneurial chefs and makers turn to digital services as an alternative to expensive and risky brick-and-mortar options, there’s no doubt we’ll see more innovations to come.
This article originally appeared in the November 2020 issue.