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'Watershed Moment' As Salsa Food Truck Gets First License to Cook on Board

By Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | January 31, 2013 1:25pm | Updated on January 31, 2013 4:08pm

WEST LOOP — Chicago's long, slow journey toward allowing meals to be cooked on food trucks finally has paid off: On Thursday, the city issued its first mobile preparer license to Dan Salls, owner of The Salsa Truck.

"It means everything that I'm first, Salls said. "Not just for my business, but for the whole scene"

Salls said he was told he was "the only one who's even gotten to the inspection phase, let alone passed it."

After a false start — Salls failed his health inspection Tuesday after his generator failed to start, then "begged and pleaded" to get the equipment fixed in time for a second inspection Wednesday — Salls made the grade.

Salls said his truck's health inspector, whom he declined to name, warned him to expect a lot of scrutiny as the first mobile food preparer in Chicago.

"They said, 'We're gonna definitely do our spot checks. We're not gonna make it hard on you, but you've got to keep your game up,' " Salls said. "They asked me to be ready to uphold the standards, which I'm more than willing to do.

Rosemary Krimbel, commissioner for the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said The Salsa Truck's onboard cook license was a "watershed moment" and added that she would like to see all other food trucks take the step as well.

Salls said he's eager to get his truck on the road, serving hot and cold food in the West Loop and Loop as early as Tuesday.

"I've had nine months to prepare for this day. I'm ready," Salls said. "I believe that all the recipes are rock-solid and I'm ready to share them."

Salls currently is operating out of Kitchen Chicago, a shared workspace, while he awaits inspection on his food truck-centric commissary and lunch counter The Garage, located at 116 N. Aberdeen St. He hopes to eventually offer commissary space to other food trucks as more licenses are granted.

"This is so validating for all the people who thought I was crazy when I quit my job," Salls said.