Due to requests from the community, the Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management decided to start hands-on cooking classes at the UT Culinary Institute in 2015.

The classes have been well-received by Knoxville locals, as the cooking and wine classes step beyond the realm of an average home cook’s expertise and into the world of professional dining.

Classes range from a four-course dinner and wine extravaganza on Valentine’s Day to a plant-based barbecue ribs and mac-n-cheese class.

Guest chefs and instructors are brought in to teach the cooking program, which aims to show students and community members the joys of making something from scratch.

Instructors for the spring 2020 semester range from the executive chef of the Tennessean hotel, with over 15 years of culinary experience, to the co-owner of a whole-person health and wellness brand. Each instructor has a unique style and specialization to make each class different and exciting for participants.

The classes start at $50 a person. The price may seem steep to some, but the class includes the required ingredients, personalized instruction from culinary experts and a delicious home cooked meal — plus dessert at the end of the process.

Manager of the UT Culinary Institute community cooking classes Terri Geiser explains why the cooking classes are held at UT.

“Requests from the community. We realized that we have a perfect venue through the UT Culinary Institute. We have access to a commercial kitchen, and culinary students are available to assist with the classes,” Geiser said.

The classes can be taken in an individual or group setting. Classes are often booked out for team-building exercises and corporate events. The courses are created to be interesting but easy to follow for any level of cooking experience.

Cindy Morton has attended multiple sessions with the UT Culinary Institute and looks forward to attending more this year. Morton recounts what she learned at one of her favorite classes.

“I learned how to make ricotta cheese with Cruise Dairy farm milk, as well as how to construct the most beautiful charcuterie board using Blackberry Farm cheeses, jams and pickled ramps,” Morton said.

Morton enjoyed Geiser’s curated cooking classes at Knoxville’s own Glass Bazaar, a gourmet kitchenware store. After receiving splendid training under Geiser’s wing, Morton decided to follow her to UT’s culinary institute.

“Terri has the gift of finding outstanding talent in the food/wine world and working with them to create either a hands-on experience or an amazing wine dinner for us to enjoy,” Morton said.

Through the UT employee Be Well program, whose purpose is to support healthy living for faculty and staff, the cooking courses can be taken for free.

The Center for Health Education and Wellness sees the value behind learning how to cook a proper meal and wants to support the long term health of employees and staff through educational programs such as this one.

With classes starting on Feb. 6, it is important to sign up for a class before spaces run out. Participants can register online and are asked to wear commercial kitchen appropriate footwear for hands-on classes.

Home cooking does not have to be a chore. With the right instruction, creativity in the kitchen can flourish, and dinners at home can become extravagant feats.

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