UT Culinary Blog

The Three-Part Recipe for a Successful Food Business

Posted by University of Tennessee Culinary Program on Oct 21, 2016 11:04:13 AM


The food business is challenging and competitive. Even those who are the most passionate and talented can sometimes burn out. For every successful restaurant making a name for itself, many others don’t last.

Success in the food business requires many things – passion and drive, talent and creativity, and a willingness to work incredibly hard, potentially in the face of failure and setback. It also, of course, requires a bit of luck.

A successful food business, however, isn’t as elusive as it may first seem. This three-part “recipe” highlights some elements that the most successful food enterprises have in common.

1. Adaptability

One essential component of a successful culinary business is adaptability. Your creativity is central to your success as a food entrepreneur. A good restaurateur understands the power of good food and has a vision for his or her establishment, but a truly successful food business owner knows how to change and adapt strategy when things aren’t going quite right.

Whether it’s expanding into new territory or adding new recipes to your menu, continued and lasting success in the culinary business requires an adaptable mind. Adaptability keeps your food business relevant as the tastes of your customers change with the times.

2. Focus on Customers First

In addition to adaptability, you must focus on your customers to attain success in the culinary industry. As a restaurant owner, you must always be thinking about what your customers’ experience is like – from the time they set foot inside your door to the moment they pay their check and head on their way.

Staying customer-focused in your business can come fairly naturally, especially if you’re starting small (and of course, nearly every food business, even some of the biggest ones, start small). When your business is new and you’re just starting out, you can’t afford to lose customers or get bad reviews. You’re trying to build your restaurant’s reputation and that requires a focus on the needs and wants of your customers.

3. Hire Fantastic People

Hiring great people in your restaurant is the third element that nearly all successful food businesses have in common, and it goes hand in hand with a focus on great customer service. If you want your business to meet with success and maintain that success, be selective about who you choose to work for you.

The best employees not only have experience and a passion for their work, but they’re adaptable (see point 1 above!), effective, and genuinely enjoy what they do. Whether you’re looking at hiring line cooks, people to bus tables, wait staff, or hospitality staff, the common denominator that makes employees great is that they love their jobs. Your employees represent you to your customers when you aren’t there. Be comfortable and extremely confident in the people who work for you – your restaurant’s success really is in their hands.

Having great food helps, too. But if the environment is hostile or the atmosphere uninviting, even the best food won’t keep a restaurant afloat. Be more than a business – be an asset to the area, build rapport with customers, and rely on your employees. A vibrant and adaptable restaurant combines customer service that excels and breeds customer loyalty, creating more than just an eating establishment – but a community. And that is, after all, what the most successful food businesses are – communities of passionate, creative people, who love food and want to share it with others.

Just like the ingredients in a great recipe, these three elements – adaptability, great customer service, and excellent employees – add up to success in the culinary world. Like ingredients, they combine to create something greater and more wonderful than the individual pieces.

As a recognized American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF) Quality program, we’ve combined these three ingredients into the curriculum of our 12-week culinary certificate course. A prime example of having done so is reflected in the catering events we host throughout the duration of the program.

If you’re interested in learning how a culinary education will prepare you for a career in food business ownership, register for a free information session. There’s no commitment required and food will be provided. What do you have to lose?


Download Chef Greg's Guide to Choosing the Right Culinary School

10 Chocolate Creations That Would Make Willy Wonka Proud

Posted by University of Tennessee Culinary Program on Oct 12, 2016 9:02:00 AM

Chocolate: it's the staple ingredient of desserts and the medium of artists. From baking decadent cakes and pastries to coating salty-savory treats, chocolate is used all around the world. Keep scrolling for 10 amazing creations that are sure to leave you wondering, "Is that really chocolate?"

1. Chess Set


2. High Heel Shoes


3. Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch)


4. Wedding Cakes w/ Handcrafted Roses


5. Mount Rushmore


6. Legos


7. Lindt Chocolate Fountain (3m high!)


8. Chocolate Covered Fruit


9. Violin


10. Butterflies


At the UT Culinary Program, we use chocolate in many different ways. If you enjoy baking and the art of chocolatiering has captured your interest, join us for a free infromation session. We'll tell you how our 12-week certificate program can train you in the fundamentals of cooking, baking, and restaurant management and even help you start your own food business!

Cook good food. Be your own boss. It's what you want to do.

Chef Greg Takes Homemade Ice Cream to a Whole New Level

Posted by University of Tennessee Culinary Program on Oct 5, 2016 4:58:49 PM


Earlier today, our very own Chef Greg Eisele joined Abigail Hutchinson (Executive Chef at The Olde Farm) on WJHL-TV where they demonstrated how to make homemade ice cream with liquid nitrogen.

Check out the video clips below for the full feature, brought to you by our friends at WJHL-TV.



 Do you love ice cream? Are you adventurous? While these ice cream flavors might not make you scream, they’ll definitely make you scratch your head in bewilderment, thinking “Who’s idea was this?" in The Top 30 Most Bizarre Ice Cream Flavors.


Download Chef Greg's Guide to Choosing the Right Culinary School

Why Easy Isn't Better When It Comes to Culinary School

Posted by University of Tennessee Culinary Program on Oct 4, 2016 10:05:00 AM


While some cooking and foodservice management skills are easier to learn than others, we’d be doing you a disservice if we told you that culinary school is a breeze.

At the UT Culinary Program, we believe any skill worth having is a skill worth mastering. That’s why we’ve designed our culinary certificate course to be challenging, even if it is only 12 weeks long.

As a general rule of thumb, the more intense the program, the more prepared you will be for a successful career.

We prepare our students with catering challenges and events designed to put the pressure on and hone their skills. These blog posts provide two of the many ways we do this:

Many of our graduates have become excellent restaurant chefs, catering event managers, and food truck business owners. Some of them have even taken it upon themselves to become personal mentors to our incoming students. Read their stories here.

If you’re ready to take the next step, Do You Think You’re Ready for Culinary School? is a blog post we’ve written just for you.

And if you’re certain that culinary school is right for you, download our free self-assessment to make sure you choose the right one.

As a Tennessee ACFEF Quality Program, our program turns talented chefs into confident restaurant, food truck, and catering managers.

Learn more about what the UT Culinary Program has in store for you by signing up for a free information session online or calling Pam Quick at 865-974-3181.


My Guide to Choosing the Right Culinary School

Why It’s Never Too Late for a Culinary Education

Posted by University of Tennessee Culinary Program on Sep 29, 2016 1:17:00 PM


Not everyone enters culinary school as a fresh-faced youngster right out of high school. Many older adults dream of pursuing a second career as chefs but hesitate because they worry that it might be too late to get a culinary education. If you are one of those people considering a career change that starts with culinary school, have no fear – it’s never too late to get a culinary education.

An older culinary student coming from a second career brings a level of experience to the kitchen that younger students simply can’t attain. And even if you’re not necessarily interested in becoming a head chef, if you’ve decided to make food your second career, there are a number of career paths available to you — such as a private chef, food stylist, food writer, and special events caterer. Everything depends on your own interests and passions.

Why You Should Attend Culinary School

No matter what your specific interest in the culinary arts happens to be, if you have the means, opportunity, and interest to attend culinary school, there’s no good reason not to do it. Perhaps you’re a retired foodie who wants the chance to pick the brains of great chefs and cook gourmet meals for your family. Maybe you’re a freelance blogger who wants to give food writing a try.

No matter what your experience or background, there’s a place for you in a culinary school if you love food and want to work hard at improving your skill in the kitchen.

As an older culinary student, you’re also likely to find that you may be more focused on your studies that some of your less-seasoned classmates. You’ve had one career (or maybe more) already, and you’ve decided once and for all that culinary school is the path you want to take. Unlike many others, you’re also likely paying for your culinary education out of your own pocket, and you want to work hard to get the most out of your investment!

Embrace the Challenge and Try Not to Worry

It’s natural to be nervous if you’re in your 40s or 50s and going back to school. You may imagine yourself feeling out of place, surrounded by the fresh faces of 20-somethings. Once you begin classes, though, you’ll likely find your concerns are unfounded. Culinary students come in all levels of age and experience. It’s unlikely that you’ll be the only nontraditional student.  

If you’re unsure about attending culinary school, try taking a job in a restaurant or working with a chef who’s willing to teach you and pass on his or her skills and knowledge. A little restaurant experience under your belt can help you determine whether culinary school is right for you.

Regardless of age, culinary training is great first step in a new career. Drive, determination, and a commitment to education matter more than a number on a birth certificate. Harness experience for this new adventure in culinary education.

We designed the UT Culinary Program as a 12-week program because we know your life is busy and going back to school can be hard. Register for a free information session for a complete overview of the things you’ll learn during your time here.

If you’re still a little hesitant, read How to Overcome Back-to-School Challenges for a few tips on how you can ease the transition from the workforce to the classroom.

My Guide to Choosing the Right Culinary School

Embrace Fall with Chef Greg's Apple Benton B.L.T. Bites

Posted by University of Tennessee Culinary Program on Sep 27, 2016 11:08:58 AM

Fall is finally here and what better way to embrace the change of season than with a delicious new recipe! Watch UT Culinary Director Chef Greg and Michelle Williams from Totally Living Well demonstrate how to prepare this savory apple-bacon combo on WBIR. If you want to try it for yourself, the recipe can be found below.



Apple Benton B.L.T. Bites

Serves 4


Step One

  • 2 Granny Smith apples freshly cut into wedges
  • 2T golden raisins, chopped fine
  • 1 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 4oz Sugar in the Raw
  • 1tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2oz honey
  • 1tsp rosemary, freshly chopped
  • 2oz leeks cut into thin julienne strips
  • Benton Bacon cut into 4 long pieces

Step Two

  • Vegetable oil, cold
  • 12oz Roma tomato concasse
  • 6oz water
  • 2T Agar Agar
  • 12oz yellow tomato concasse
  • 6oz water
  • 2T Agar Agar
  • Microgreens- 8OZV

Step One: Combine apples through rosemary and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool. Place 4 leek juliennes on bacon strips, top with 3 apple sticks each, and wrap and secure with a toothpick.

Step Two: Simmer yellow tomato concasse with water and red tomato concasse with water, keep separate. Add Agar Agar to both hot tomato mixtures and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain mixtures using a fine chinoise strainer. Drizzle tomato mixtures, making large droplets into cold vegetable oil. Keep cold and reserve. Bake bacon wraps for 15 minutes at 350F until crispy and golden brown.

Serve bacon bites with tomato caviar and microgreens. Optional additions could include vine-ripened tomatoes, vinaigrette, or fresh berries.


More Recipes

Trifle of the Pousse Café

5 Salad Recipes That Aren’t Just for Summer

3 Candlelit Dinners for the Perfect Date Night


Cook Like a Pro in 90 Minutes or Less

Is Restaurant Ownership for You?

Posted by University of Tennessee Culinary Program on Sep 22, 2016 4:15:00 PM


Many young chefs entering the culinary field dream of owning their own restaurants. However, few of them realize what owning a restaurant actually entails. There are many benefits to restaurant ownership, but there are also challenges. Before taking the life-changing step of opening your own restaurant, consider both sides of the coin.

The Benefits of Restaurant Ownership

One of the biggest benefits of owning your own restaurant is the joy of sharing food with others. For people who love food and feeding others, restaurant ownership can be an enormously satisfying way to earn a living. When you work in a restaurant that someone else owns, you are constrained by the owner’s vision and plans for the establishment. Owning your own restaurant gives you the freedom to do things your way. Channel your unique passion for food and express your culinary creativity with ownership.

Another benefit of restaurant ownership is the sense of community it can bring. The best restaurants aren’t just places to eat; they are communities. As the owner of your own restaurant, you can shape the kind of community your establishment becomes. It’s incredibly satisfying to spend your workdays running a place where the patrons know and trust you and where your employees can become like family.

Owners of great restaurants harness the affection people naturally have for good food and the associations we make between food and family. Great restaurants transcend the idea of business; the potential is there for people to consider such establishments as a second home.

The Challenges of Restaurant Ownership

Opening your own restaurant is a huge financial investment, and it can be a risky one. For every restaurant that achieves a high level of success, many others fail. It’s about more than providing food, too. You have to manage employees, deal with building maintenance, and handle inventory, among other responsibilities. The restaurant business is also very competitive; you need to be able to collaborate with other restaurateurs as well as compete.

When you have an entrepreneurial mindset, coupled with the excitement of sharing and breaking bread, restaurant ownership can offer a lifetime of joy.

Read: What You Should Know Before Opening a Restaurant

The UT Culinary Program offers a 12-week certification course where students who are interested in opening their own restaurant, catering business, or even a food truck can acquire the cooking and business management skills they need to build a successful food business. Students are trained in a special classroom designed for culinary education where they are taught by over 15 professionals, including educators, chefs, caterers, beverage experts, restaurant owners, scientists, and managers. Classes are kept small to maximize personal attention, and students gain hands-on experience in multiple working and test kitchens.

Students are also given the opportunity to explore what it’s like to run their own businesses and are challenged to plan, produce, and serve their own function in live settings in preparation for a real work environment. Those who qualify will have the opportunity to take advantage of a mentoring network that is available through partner chefs and past graduates. The UT Culinary Program also helps those interested achieve further accreditation through the American Culinary Federation.


Do you want to learn more about the UT Culinary Program?

Register for a free information session!

Calling All Veterans: Are You Executive Chef Material?

Posted by University of Tennessee Culinary Program on Sep 20, 2016 3:52:00 PM


Before you answer, let’s take a moment to dig into what it really means to be an executive chef.

To those unfamiliar with the food service industry, the terms “cook” and “chef” are often used interchangeably to describe someone who makes a living working in a kitchen.

However, while the two have workspace in common, there is actually a significant difference in the qualifications that make a person a chef versus a cook, most of which lie in education, experience, and formal certifications.

A chef is much more than a great cook. He is someone who has cultivated his culinary, leadership, and business management skills and acts as a seasoned production manager, orchestrating everything that goes on in the kitchen.

In regard to his education, a chef may hold a two or four-year culinary degree (or the equivalent obtained in a shorter period of time). He will have extensive hands-on training in the classroom and/or in the field through a culinary apprenticeship. By the end of his training, a chef will be able to create and implement his own menus in a catering or restaurant setting.

However, when a chef first starts out, his knowledge of food and business management will be limited until it is paired with his own real-life experiences. These experiences will make him more than capable of holding a kitchen management role among other supervisory responsibilities.

As a veteran, your military experience has provided you with valuable training and practical skills that are beneficial when working in the culinary industry, particularly in a leadership role like that of an executive chef. Working as part of a team, remaining level-headed in stressful situations, and thinking on your feet are a few examples of how you are already a strong head chef.

Want to learn more about chef life? Understanding Chef Salary & the Practical Side of Cookery is a great place to start.

If you feel comfortable training and managing personnel and supervising and coordinating large scale activities and you love good food, a career as an executive chef might be in your future. The UT Culinary Program can help get you there in as little as 12 weeks.

Register for a free information session to find out if you really are executive chef material.


Download Chef Greg's Guide to Choosing the Right Culinary School

5 Basic Cooking Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Posted by University of Tennessee Culinary Program on Sep 15, 2016 12:41:00 PM


Making mistakes is part of being human, but when you’re a chef in the kitchen, how you handle those mistakes reveals a lot about where you are in your culinary journey.

Although mistakes can sometimes result in new recipes, it’s always best to avoid them and let your ingenuity be responsible for creating unique dishes instead.

Fortunately, most cooking mistakes can be prevented with adequate preparation and proper training.

spaghetti-626276_640.jpg1. Clumpy, Sticky, Mushy Pasta

Pasta is the key ingredient in many entrees, so it’s important to get it right. The biggest mistake novices make when cooking pasta happens before the water even reaches a boil. Choosing the right pot size is essential for the pasta to reach its al dente form.

Fill a large five to six quart pot with water and add a generous amount of salt. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta. Keep an eye on it, stirring within the first two minutes to keep the pieces from sticking together, and occasionally after that. 

2. Lost Ingredients & a Messy Countertopmilk-1543193_640.jpg

If you own a set (or several) of various sized cutting boards, you’ve probably already made this cooking error more than once: pairing the wrong cutting board with the wrong knife. As a general rule, a small knife should only be used on a small cutting board and a large knife on a large cutting board.

In reality, only simple cutting tasks require the use of the small knife and board combo, such as cutting lemon wedges with a paring knife. Most kitchen prep work should be done with a chef’s knife on a cutting board that is 12 to 15 inches at minimum. Doing so will give you more room to maneuver your knife, reduce your risk for injury, and stop you from losing the ingredients all over your countertop.

Want to learn more about how to slice and dice? Read 7 Vegetable Cuts Every Cook Should Master.

tomato-1336215_640.jpg3. Mealy, Bland Tomatoes

Let me ask you a simple question. When you come home from the farmers’ market or local grocery store with a pound of tomatoes, where do you put them? If you’re answer is “in the refrigerator,” you need to stop right there. You’re making a big mistake. Tomato cells are delicate; a fluctuation in temperature will cause their cell walls to break down, destroying flavorful enzymes.

Tomatoes are best stored on the kitchen counter in a single layer, away from direct sunlight. Grape and cherry tomatoes may continue to be stored in their containers (as long as they have holes for air circulation), and should also remain at room temperature. To speed up the ripening process, place your tomatoes in a paper bag with an apple. Once ripe, your tomatoes should be used in three to five days for optimum freshness.

4. Dry, Dull Burgers & Meatballsburger-889930_640.jpg

When you’re trying to eat healthy, what better way to do so than by preparing your beef-based dishes with lean ground beef? Right? Wrong! Fat bastes meat as it cooks, so substituting lean ground beef is a sure fire way to grill a sad looking patty.

Instead, go with ground chuck that is only 80-85% lean. What most people don’t know is that a lot of the fat dribbles off during cooking. By simply draining the pan, your meat will end up 90-95% lean without sacrificing tenderness or taste.

bread-1510155_640.jpg5. Dense Cakes & Breads

Cakes and breads are best when fluffy and moist. However, when baking with cold ingredients (like eggs and dairy products), they become thick and dense instead. In order to bond well, eggs, milk, and the like need to be at room temperature, so when the ingredients are combined, air is trapped in the mixture. When the batter is in the oven, the air expands during the leavening process, which forms tiny air pockets. These air pockets are what makes bread and cake light.

Setting out your ingredients 30 minutes to an hour prior to mixing will allow them to reach the proper temperature. If you’re running short on time, slice your butter into one-inch cubes and microwave them in 10 second intervals until they are malleable. Placing eggs in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for 15 minutes will also speed up the process.

Do you want to learn more about how to cook like a chef? Read Learning to Cook Like a Seasoned Chef for more kitchen skills to perfect your cooking.

At the UT Culinary Program, we help our students avoid common kitchen mishaps by teaching them the fundamentals of cooking and food business management through a variety of skills tests and hands-on challenges. Upon graduation, our students are prepared for a bright future in restaurants, hotels, and catering. Some even open up their own food trucks.

Craving a change?
In just 12 weeks, we can help you achieve your dream of food business ownership.
Register for a free information session to learn more about the UT Culinary Program.

Spice Up Your Life with These International Cuisine Courses

Posted by University of Tennessee Culinary Program on Sep 8, 2016 1:19:00 PM

Looking for a way to shake things up in the kitchen? Our international cuisine classes could be the ticket you need to explore the world -- all without leaving Knoxville. You can learn how to master techniques of the Old World or discover an entirely new palate through our cooking classes that span regional flavors far and wide.

Here are just a few of our upcoming international cuisine classes open to culinary enthusiasts of all levels:

sushi_roll.jpgBasic Sushi Preparation

Love sushi but having trouble finding a restaurant that consistently delivers? Take matters into your own hands with this course that will teach you everything from the basics of how to make the perfect sushi rice to mastering the proper flavor combination of the California roll. You'll also get a culinary education about the culture and history of sushi in Japan, as well as a primer on how to use chopsticks without looking like a Westerner.

Interested in this class? Sign up here!


Travels of Southern SpainSpanish_Food.jpg

Want to impress your friends and family with an authentic paella or terrific tapas? Try this Spanish-flavored class that will transport your taste buds to Seville through a mix of regional ingredients and time-honored techniques, like this beginner's tip for handling Mediterranean produce: To peel tomatoes, cut an X in the top, simmer in a pot of hot water for 15 to 30 seconds, and let cool. The skin will slide right off.

Interested in this class? Sign up here!


wine_and_cheese.jpgWines of Beaujolais

We all know that fine dining is about more than just the food. Explore the sommelier's side of your palate with this primer course in French wines of the Beaujolais region. Learn the difference between a Cru and a Nouveau, as well as how to properly pair wines with meals or hors d'oeuvres.

Interested in this class? Sign up here!






You don't have to travel far to get a truly international flavor experience. Learn about cooking techniques from around the globe, and you can bring the world directly into your own kitchen.

Looking for the right cooking class for your diverse international tastes? Visit our website to see our latest classes and be notified when new classes begin.


Cook Like a Pro in 90 Minutes or Less