LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Barely a year after opening on Lakewood Ranch's Main Street, the Viking Culinary Center has closed.
The 4,500-square-foot cooking establishment is owned by local home builder James Butler, who recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Butler, the owner of Paradise Homes, is seeking protection to fend off a list of 232 creditors owed as much as $10 million, according to previous Herald reports.
Butler invested $1 million into the cooking center which employed 30 people. As a home builder, Butler used Viking appliances in his luxury homes, the same appliances used in the cooking classes. Thirty homes already sold by Paradise Homes, including some in Lakewood Ranch, sit unfinished.
Butler started planning a Viking Culinary Center in 2008. The center officially opened on Sept. 14, 2011.
"We will fill the space as soon as we can," said Julia DeCastro, property manager for Main Street.
The cooking center's website has been shutdown and a recorded message for the main telephone line says "we are temporarily closed until further notice."
The center specializes in cooking demonstrations and can accommodate 44 clients. The center also includes a hands-on training area for 32 and a wine bar seating 14. Several area chefs, as well as chefs across the country, had visited the center for private demonstrations.
During the past year, the facility has been used to host several events and social gatherings for organizations and groups such as the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and Lakewood Ranch Women's Club.
"We're delighted they were here and sorry they're going through troubles they're having," said Tommy Klauber, owner and executive chef of the Polo Grill and Bar in Lakewood Ranch. "I hope something good happens there."
Klauber said he has offered assistance to the center to accommodate any clients that previously scheduled events at the cooking center.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams