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KNOXVILLE — Tracy Griffith, the world’s first female certified sushi chef, is bringing her “Sushi American Style” to the University of Tennessee.

Griffith, a UT alumna who also is a country music singer, actress and author, headlines this year’s “Rollin’ on Rocky Top,” a fundraiser for students in the department of retail, hospitality and tourism management. The event will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Knoxville.

At the benefit Griffith will demonstrate how to make sushi rolls — not with raw fish, but with familiar American ingredients like steak, blue cheese, asparagus, bacon and fried chicken. Her cookbook “Sushi American Style” was published in 2004, and she has been featured on cooking television shows such as “Cooking with DIY” on the Do It Yourself Network.

The four-course dinner features an Asian-inspired menu with food products grown or raised in Tennessee, and there will be wine pairing by master sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji.

UT students use what they’ve learned in the department courses to plan the benefit with help from the department’s advisory board, which includes representatives from companies such as Pilot, Ruby Tuesday, Wal-Mart, Gaylord Opryland, Dillard’s, Connor Concepts, Goody’s, Crate and Barrel, O’Charley’s, Walgreens, The Krystal Co., Jewelry TV, Kroger and the state Department of Tourist Development.

Students will help prepare the dinner and organize silent and live auctions for the event. All proceeds go to help pay for student field trips, internships, courses, study tours and simulation exercises. Last year’s event raised more than $48,500, and this year’s goal is $50,000.

“Our goal is to provide our students enriching educational experiences beyond the basic classroom format,” says Nancy Rutherford, professor and department head. “These experiences provide unique learning opportunities that also excite students about potential careers in the retail, hospitality and tourism fields. Many deserving students would not be able to take advantage of these opportunities without the funds raised by this event.”

Griffith is the first woman to graduate from the California Sushi Academy and was hired at the trendy Beverly Hills restaurant Tsunami’s. She was a partner and sushi chef at Rika’s Restaurant on the Sunset Strip, which featured her American sushi. She was named an honorary fellow in the American Academy of Chefs and American Culinary Federation last year.

When she’s not whipping up new delicacies, Griffith writes and sings country music. Her first CD, titled “Red,” was released in 2006.

Tickets to the fundraiser are $150 per person or $1,000 for a table of eight. Attire is dress-up denim. To purchase tickets, contact Nancy Rutherford, department head, at (865) 974-6614 or nruth@utk.edu.


Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179, elizabeth.davis@tennessee.edu

Leigh Aldridge, student fundraiser coordinator, laldridg@utk.edu