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Immokalee Culinary Accelerator nurtures culinary entrepreneurs

IMMOKALEE — Reshma Tannassee has always had a passion for cooking. At one time she wanted to open a restaurant, but instead she started a farm and grew vegetables and hot peppers.

Tannassee, originally from Guyana, realized she didn’t like being outside in the heat all day, so she looked for another way to use the vegetables.

An overabundance of hot peppers prompted her to make her great-grandmother’s hot sauce, a recipe that had been handed down through the generations. Tannassee tweaked it a bit and added tropical fruits to give it a sweet and fiery taste.

She makes mild, medium and hot versions and uses mango and pineapple to temper the heat of the peppers.

She named it Carina’s Caribbean Hot Sauce, after her daughter, but needed help producing it commercially so she could market the sauce to stores and consumers.

In March, the Immokalee Culinary Accelerator celebrated its grand opening, which Tannassee attended. That decision changed her life.

The 5,274-square-foot Immokalee Culinary Accelerator is a state-of-the-art membership-based commercial kitchen which offers its members business assistance to help grow their culinary endeavors. In addition to the cold and hot kitchens, bakery equipment, cold and frozen storage areas, a food nutrition testing lab and office space, the culinary accelerator provides mentoring.

Chef Christian Le Squer, a Michelin 3-star chef at the Le Cinq restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, will travel to the site a few times each year to mentor the culinary entrepreneurs.

The culinary accelerator also helps its chef/entrepreneurs navigate the Federal Department of Agriculture approval process, obtain a state license and get their products to market.

Tannassee needed help to get her recipes approved for commercial production. Three months after joining the culinary accelerator, she launched her brand and is off to a good start finding customers. In October she sold 800 cases to stores from Tampa to Naples. She makes private label sauces and her own brand, Carina’s, for groceries including Wynn’s in Naples, Publix and Fresh Market. Her sauce is in the approval stage to be sold in Whole Foods as well.

Her sauce success has led to other products she is trying to market, including jellies, guacamole and hummus.

“Being here is everything,” Tannassee said. “They gave me an opportunity to grow and help with the marketing. I couldn’t find this kind of service in any other commercial kitchen. If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t be able to make my sauce, jellies, guacamole and hummus.”

For more information about the Immokalee Culinary Accelerator, visit www.theculinaryaccelerator.com or call 239-249-5911.

 

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.

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