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A December graduate has become the first UT student to receive an outside chef certification while attending UT.

Tara Garland, a hospitality, restaurant, and tourism management major in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, received her chef certification through the American Culinary Federation just three days after walking across the stage at the December commencement ceremony.


In addition to maintaining her status as a full-time student at UT, Garland completed three thirty-hour courses in order to earn the certification.

Garland passed the written aspect of the ACF certification in November and completed the remaining kitchen portion December 14.  The Top Chef-style kitchen test consisted of demonstrating her culinary capabilities to a panel of judges for two hours.

While the certification is through ACF, Garland could not have fulfilled her dream had it not been for her mentor, UT Culinary Program Director Greg Eisele, and the program offered through UT’s Conferences and Non-Credit Programs.

“After attending an informational session on UT’s culinary program, I knew that is what I needed to do with my life,” Garland said.

Soon after, she switched her major from mathematics and began tackling the coursework associated with hospitality, restaurant, and tourism management.

During her undergraduate studies, Garland found employment at the UT Conference Center as an administrative assistant for the culinary program and worked her way up to sous chef.

Garland was be able to fulfill her dreams with the help of a scholarship fund for students pursuing ongoing education after graduating from the culinary program at UT. The scholarship allowed Garland to pursue her ACF certification by covering the costs of her online courses, testing fees, and registration fees associated with the program.

“I am so fortunate that this fund existed,” said Garland. “Without the help of donors and Chef Eisele, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Garland hopes to find a culinary job that will allow her to relocate to Nashville in the near future.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,