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March 12, 2015 NBC-2 - FORT MYERS, FL -


Getting an education in culinary arts doesn't have to involve a trip to France.


“What does salt do,” Executive Chef Pyro Rodriguez asked of his students.  At age 64, Allen Aikens isn't finished learning.  “First thing I said, was where do I sign up,” Aikens said.  He's attending culinary school five days a week for four hours a day.  “It gives you an opportunity to want to just grow,” added the longtime New Yorker who's now looking for a new line of work after years as a truck driver.


Rodriguez owns a catering company, based in Naples, called Pyro's Creations.  He spent nearly $30,000 for culinary training in New York. “I'm still paying,” he said with a laugh. “I'm trying to give them the same education.”  Students pay only $45 for twelve weeks of training, and classes are taught in a neighborhood no one would confuse with Le Cordon Bleu.


“This area is called Pine Manor,” explained James Fraser who founded ICARE, Institute for Culinary Awareness Research & Education.  Pine Manor is an area with a long history of violent crime. Programs like, ICARE, are changing that image.  “I love it out here,” said culinary student Haley Converse.  At age 19, she moved to Cape Coral from Michigan and joined the class thanks to urging from her grandmother.  “Yeah and that's exactly what I did,” Converse said. “I just picked up got my stuff and came down here and it's the best decision I've made,” Converse said. “Just the air is different, you know.”


This Lee County community needed something different.  “Yes, I've had a student in the program who was were murdered in the neighborhood,” Fraser added.

His program uses Pine Manor's community garden to teach how food grows.  “It's an incredible feeling, because you see results,” Fraser said.


“Most of these folks have been unemployed for a period of time,” said Dorothy Browning from Goodwill Industries of SWFL. “Some have already gotten employment already during the course of this program.”  “I've hired two of these students already,” Rodriguez added.


On this day, his students learned the rules of breading using onion rings and eggplant.  “You can technically use another except fruit loops,” he said with a laugh.

ICARE students learn proper cooking technique and use technology, like video cameras and monitors, that you'd see in a high-end culinary school.  "We're changing this image of what Pine Manor was to what Pine Manor is,” Fraser explained.


Learning a new career doesn't happen easily.  “Coming here everyday right now is somewhat of a challenge,” Aikens said with his cane leaning against a nearby wall.  The 64 year old is here even though he just got out of the hospital.  “Whereas a lot of people will just sit around and do nothing,” Aikens said he's dedicated to finishing the course.  It's a recipe for life where there isn't a shortcut.  “Pride, you know,” Aikens added. “It's like every day I get up I have something to do.”


After the program, each student goes through an internship with hopes of landing a job in food service.  ICARE's culinary school is currently funded through a grant obtained by Goodwill.  


To watch the video, click the link:

Chef Fraser at Pine Manor's ribbon cutting.

Pine Manor Ribbon Cutting

April 29, 2013 

Chef James Fraser with some help from community members served up an amazing array of appetizers using ingredients from the facility's garden. The training kitchen will offer the community the opportunity to learn culinary skills in a professional kitchen with the goal of helping to put residents back into the job market.  Residents will also have access to enthusiast classes, specialty cooking (diabetic friendly, etc.) and kids classes.  A summer school program for teens is in the works for July, 2013.  For more information please contact 

Click the links for videos of the event from local news sources

Pine Manor Improvement Receives Grant!

January 10, 2013

The Pine Manor Improvement Association received a grant of $21,000 to train at-risk, low income residents the skills necessary to be competitive in SW Florida's culinary marketplace.  James Fraser of ICARE will be conducting the training and seven area restaurants have sign on as partners, potentially hiring those that complete the courses.  The Assoication just recently built a kitchen and dining facility and also aquired the property next door with plans to create a community supported garden.

Read more in the News Press article HERE.

Land for Community Garden is Gifted!

January 18, 2013 

The first of its kind in Lee County. A community garden, property donated by Wells Fargo, and deeded to the Veterans Foundation. When complete, this hydoponic farm will not only yield fresh produce for the surrounding community, but put veterans to work and teach about sustainable agriculture.

Volunteer or get more information HERE.

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