After four years of talking, planning and building, the $5 million Academy of Culinary Arts at officially opened its doors to the community Oct. 5.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was conducted by the with plenty of dignitaries in the audience from the area and throughout the state.
"This is a dream come true," said former Land O' Lakes High School culinary arts teacher Robin Phifer.
Phifer taught at the school for years, using the old 1970s-style kitchen that was once housed inside the main building on campus. The new freestanding building is a sight for sore eyes, Phifer said. So is the fact that Jessica Cooper, one of Phifer's former students, is one of the two chefs overseeing the career academy's programs. Michael Rigberg is the other instructor.
"It doesn't get any better than that," Phifer said.
Principal Ric Mellin couldn't agree more.
"No one's going to leave here without getting goosebumps," Mellin told attendees of the opening ceremony. "You built an academy that's a breakthrough. The town should be proud of this."
The academy is designed to in cooking and food service. Students will leave the program with the skills and certifications they need to go directly into the workforce or pursue advanced degrees.
"I'm so grateful I got to be one of the first in this building," said Land O' Lakes senior Janine Gordon. She plans to become a pastry chef and is happy with the opportunities the new academy will afford her.
The new building, she told attendees, is "definitely a step up from our old kitchen."