Collier and Lee Counties Edition
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Immokalee Culinary Accelerator Helps Local Chef Entrepreneurs

Culinary Program Manager Ahmed El (right) and Business Development Manager Ruth Fehr

Culinary Program Manager Ahmed El (right) and Business Development Manager Ruth Fehr

The Florida Culinary Accelerator @ Immokalee (FCA@I), now fully functional, is helping to create new food businesses, guiding chefs through state licensing hurdles and assisting them with getting their products into the retail market. “Interest has been growing since we opened. Education is huge. We’re starting to create new uses for the accelerator, hosting field trips, workshops, cooking classes and other events,” says Culinary Program Manager Ahmed El.

The culinary accelerator, built in a converted warehouse in the manufacturing and technology center at Immokalee Regional Airport, offers shared-use cooking and food processing space, dry and cold storage, business workspace and a food nutrition testing lab staffed by the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences.

The facility, designed to help chefs work with Immokalee farms and agricultural businesses, is headed up by a public/private partnership between the Collier County Office of Business & Economic Development and Economic Incubators Inc. (EII), a nonprofit dedicated to the success of Southwest Florida entrepreneurs.

Woodstock’s, a micro-market beneath the Naples Accelerator off Pine Ridge Road, will allow the chefs to showcase and sell their products. This requires a Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (DFACS) wholesale license, depending on the product, or going through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Business Development Manager Ruth Fehr says, “The reaction of the local community in Immokalee has been very supportive.” She adds that the BalGas utility company, which donated money for chef scholarships and the Seminole Tribe, is working with them on events. “It takes time to build relationships. I truly believe that in six months to a year, we’ll have partnerships which will help us grow, be self-sufficient, and thrive,” says Fehr.

The FCA@I has planned youth and adult classes for July and September with the Seminole Tribe. The featured tent at Taste Of Collier, FCA@1 did hourly cooking demonstrations and will be featured again at the October Stone Crab Festival.

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