BONIFAY -- Behind the scenes of the dining room, donning a pink and white tie-dyed chef's hat, head chef and senior Emily Shelby appeared to take charge of the kitchen. Swinging the refrigerator open, she grabbed a final box of ice cream -- hoping it would be enough to carry the last wave of guests.

"And pray," she aspirated to another staff member, shoving the box into his hands.

The pungent notes of garlic subtly pierced through the manifold textures brought to the dining table for the main course at Friday's luncheon held at Holmes County High School's Devil's Den Cafe. The luncheon was hosted by students in a foodservice certification program.

On the menu: creamy Tuscan garlic chicken, garlic parmesan orzo, lemon butter broccoli and maple butter homemade blondies topped with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and walnuts.

Exceptional student education teacher Emily McCann said she hasn't missed a single luncheon since she started at the school seven years ago. 

"I get some of the best food in Holmes County," she said. "You're not going to find too many restaurants in Holmes County where they're going to serve this quality of food -- and it's different every time."

In the program, students earn their SafeStaff Foodhandler Certification, ServSafe Manager Certification and National ProStart Certification. The latter takes two years of preparation and requires students to pass two tests with 400 hours of experience in practical application in the foodservice industry outside of normal class time.

It's the hands-on experience that continues to draw students like junior Jason Evans toward a future professional career in the culinary industry.

"I just love the environment here," Evans said. "Everyone working together, making food and it's just a really lively (environment) ... and that's when I realized I just want to be here for the rest of my life."

"I want to stay with the food industry," he added. "I'm good in it. "

The foodservice certification is one of several offered at Holmes County School District. Students are finding the programs to be useful to find a job and get better pay while in high school, as well as, landing better jobs post secondary education and bridge skill-based programs at higher educational institutions.

"I have students for a range of reasons: some of them say 'well, when I move out of my parents house and I go to college, I'm going to need to know how to cook' and then some of them want to be a professional chef someday," said Family and Consumer Science teacher April Coe, who is over the foodservice program.

In March, her students will compete in Orlando at the Florida ProStart competition, where they will present an Asian themed meal and, with students from the business management program, original restaurant concepts, including marketing and floor plans.

The kitchen was chaotic lunch time Friday. But that was certainly expected, considering the 16 foodservice students soon expected to swiftly unveil their version of fine dining to two waves of faculty and staff.

"Five minutes to next lunch," Coe projected across the prep area. Alerted, students immediately heeded the signal and zipped across the floor from station to station.

"Don't put your thumb on the top of the plate, put it under," Head chef and senior Rodlisha Robertson commanded a server.

Robertson's sternness was only a sign of leadership. She supplanted to the school a few years ago from Chipley and has since found her social network in her fellow foodservice students.

Coe would agree it's that kind of work ethic -- team orientation, leadership and a love for food -- that made the faculty and staff luncheon a success.

"They did fantastic," Coe said. "They have just worked together and picked up each other's slack and just made everything happen and all the dishes got made and all the people were fed and left full and happy."