Food Innovation Center has two clients

Published 7:19 pm Thursday, December 8, 2011

Patti West works to clean persimmons, while Christy Mendoza works with tomatoes at the Chilton Food Innovation Center.

The Chilton Food Innovation Center, which opened in August, currently has two clients.

The center was designed to give food growers and producers as well as business entrepreneurs a chance to get food products made and ready to market.

One current client at the center makes a blueberry dessert topping and a blueberry chipotle sauce. The other makes a barbecue sauce.

Christy Mendoza, the center’s executive director, said the center gives farmers a chance to do something profitable with their excess fruit and business people the chance to launch their ideas.

The building, which houses a commercial kitchen, is rented out by the hour to clients. They prepare all the food and are responsible for cleaning up after themselves.

The facility, billed as community food processing center, works well for small businesses that can’t afford the overhead associated with having their own kitchen, Mendoza said.

“It would be pretty expensive to have their own commercial kitchen,” Mendoza said.

Many items in the center’s kitchen were either donated or purchased at a reduced price.

Though a standalone non-profit, the center is supported by the Chilton County Extension Office and several other agencies.

Food made at the center must be acidified due to health department regulations, but that includes things like salsa, pickled products, some relishes and salad dressings, jams and jellies, chipotle and more.

The center also acts as a consultant and will help people develop recipes or other ideas.

Mendoza hopes people will use the center as a launch pad to successful business endeavors.

“We hope that the small businesses outgrow us (and) eventually have their own place,” she said.

The center is located at 13 First Ave. in Clanton. For more information, call Mendoza at (205) 280-6268.