Culinary Accelerator in Immokalee nears completion

Dr. Marshall Goodman with Economic Incubators, Inc. speaks with Danny Gonzalez of Lozano’s Mexican Restaurant at the Culinary Accelerator in Immokalee about the possibility of Lozano’s mass-producing salsa that the restaurant currently sells. (Submitted photo/Travis Anderson)

The project, which has been delayed for several months due to unforeseen regulatory issues, is finally becoming a reality for local entrepreneurs.

The Florida Culinary Accelerator is scheduled to open its doors mid-January and there is at least one local business vying for the opportunity to be the first to pursue a new business venture.

Lozano’s Mexican Restaurant in Immokalee, known for its authentic Mexican food, is venturing into mass production of their salsa.

Danny Gonzalez, with Lozano’s said that while the restaurant can produce and sell small orders of the salsa now, they don’t have the capability to accept larger orders. Gonzalez is interested in learning more about the marketing and regulatory requirements needed to start fulfilling salsa orders for grocery stores and nationwide shipment.

Until now, local entrepreneurs and business owners had to navigate the legal channels by trial and error. That’s where the Culinary Accelerator comes into play.

The Culinary Accelerator is designed to connect professionals who specialize in food safety, marketing, and business law with individuals who have an idea for a new food-based product.

In the near future, those interested in taking a family recipe and turning it into a money-making business venture, will soon be able to make an appointment, meet with business professionals, create a legal entity, obtain insurance, develop a business plan, and utilize the commercial-grade kitchen that the Culinary Accelerator has to offer.

Funding for the Culinary Accelerator came from a number of sources. $1.2 million came from the State of Florida. $30,000 came from Collier County. And, $112,536 came from a USDA grant. Collier County Commissioners have also approved $800,000 in funding to oversee the Naples Accelerator and Immokalee Culinary Accelerator. That money will go to Economic Incubators, Inc. which currently oversees both accelerators.

Food safety and sanitation are critical at the Culinary Accelerator. Dr. Marshall Goodman with Economic Incubators, Inc. said that the University of Florida will have staff on site to oversee food production. Before food products are ever marketed, members will have to work with the Food Science department to identify all of the ingredients in a product, determine its shelf life, and create a nutrition label.

Throughout that process, members will have to pay for and obtain a ServSafe certificate and comply with all FDA regulations.

Dr. Goodman also pointed out that while entrepreneurs have options when it comes to developing a food-based product and bringing it to market, the Culinary Accelerator is unlike any other operation in that the advice, equipment, and space needed is available to members at a fraction of the cost some other operations might charge.

For example, a non-Immokalee resident might utilize space within the Culinary Accelerator for approximately $20 per hour at the basic level while Immokalee residents will pay roughly $15 per hour for the same space. Dr. Goodman pointed out that additional rental fees may be added if cold storage or freezer storage at the site is needed. Other costs for marketing may be added as well.

For more information, stop by the Culinary Accelerator at 170 Airpark Boulevard, Suite 103, call 239-249-5911, or visit www.theculinaryaccelerator.com.

Travis can be reached at ibnews@newszap.com

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