Funding announced for $49M food, wine and tourism centre in Kelowna

Alessandra DiMatia is taking the culinary arts program at Okanagan College in Kelowna, B.C.

She hopes to become a certified red seal chef and eventually a culinary instructor.

“My passion really comes from being able to share food with others, DiMattia said. “I mean, I think food is such an important part of our lifestyles”

DiMattia said getting into the program can be challenging.

“We have limited seats. I was very lucky to get in the program when I did,” she said.

But soon students like DiMattia will have easier access to culinary arts with news of a major, multi-million dollar college expansion.

“Today, we are announcing a new, hybrid, mass timber centre for food, wine and tourism at Okanagan College here in Kelowna,” said Selina Robinson, B.C.’s Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills.

“The centre will be the first purpose-built facility in Canada bringing together food, wine and tourism.”

Robinson announced the provincial government is investing $44.8 million for a 40,000-square-foot facility that will be home to a new Centre for Food, Wine and Tourism.

Okanagan College is kicking in $4 million towards the project.

“The labour market outlook tells us that we have a skills shortage around chefs and cooks and the service sector and making sure that the service sector has the talent pool that it needs in order to thrive is what’s going on here,” said Robinson.

The new centre is expected to graduate roughly 500 more students every year.

“This is something that we have as a community have been working towards for years,” said Okanagan College president Neil Fassina.

Fassina said programs that will be offered at the new centre will include culinary arts and tourism training.

“So chefs through to the beverage industry. And so you’re thinking about the vintners, the brewers, distillers and the juice makers,” Fassina said.

“And then  tourism, everything from hotel management to client services across the entire spectrum of  tourism — it’s all under one roof.”

The funding announcement is being applauded by Tourism Kelowna

“This is probably one of the most significant announcements we’ve heard in the tourism industry for years,” said Lisanne Ballantyne, Tourism Kelowna president and CEO.

Ballantyne said the investment will benefit the hospitality industry as a whole.

“Having a program like this starting now to push hundreds of students a year means that not only Central Okanagan but throughout the province, we’re going to be reinforcing an entire industry,” Ballantyne said.

‘The Okanagan already has the agriculture right here. It already has a presence around beverage arts, around culinary arts and so expanding on what currently exists is the right way to go,” Robinson said.

“We know that this is tourism central for many here in British Columbia, also from Alberta and across the country and we’re just going to build on what currently exists and we’re very excited to be part of it.”

The new Centre for Food, Wine and Tourism is expected to welcome students sometime in 2026.

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