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Chef Greg Eisele inside the UT Conference Center kitchen.

UT Culinary Program director Greg Eisele received the hospitality and tourism educator award September 16 at the 2021 Governor’s Conference on Hospitality and Tourism held in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Eisele has been the executive chef for the UT Conference Center and director of the Culinary Program for the past nine years.

On hand to support Eisele at the awards gala were his wife, Amber, and Leanna Belew, executive director of UT Conferences and Event Services.

“With over 130 culinary graduates from the UT Culinary Program, Chef Greg’s contributions to the success of many in the hospitality and restaurant industry are truly inspiring,” Belew said. “His leadership and guidance have helped place program graduates in culinary positions throughout East Tennessee and beyond.”

Eisele’s statewide award comes on the heels of the hospitality educator award he received in August at Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association’s Stars of the Industry awards and scholarship luncheon.

Chef Greg Eisele preparing a meal
Chef Greg Eisele

“I’m honored and humbled to have received both awards, but they really are an overall reflection of the quality instructors, students, and graduates who carry the torch for our program,” Eisele said.

In 2017, the UT Culinary Program was recognized by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Education Foundation as a quality program. Eisele’s passion for the industry prompted peers to elect him as president of the Smoky Mountain chapter of the ACF, putting him in an instrumental role for raising scholarships for up-and-coming chefs and restauranteurs.

In addition to training and managing culinary professionals, Eisele brings the science and skills of cooking to the general public through UT’s noncredit cooking courses and TV culinary segments on local TV stations WBIR (Knoxville) and WJHL (Johnson City). And when COVID-19 struck in 2020, he and his young granddaughter Gabby created a “Cooking at the House” educational video series, which attracted 30,000 views on the culinary program’s Facebook page.

The obligations and responsibilities of the local ACF president are focused on generating a culture of culinary mentorship and excellence. Teaching and coaching young culinarians sustain that culture. Community and school partners that Eisele mentors include Knoxville Leadership Foundation, Emerald Youth Foundation, and East Tennessee high school culinary programs, including Austin-East, Maryville, Lenoir City, and William Blount.

Of particular note is the Culinary Boot Camp that Eisele teaches to students in Knoxville Leadership Foundation’s KnoxWorx workforce development program, which offers vocational courses in high-demand fields including construction, health care, welding, manufacturing, and customer service. “The goal is to give them the tools they need to get jobs,” Eisele said.


Brian Canever (865-974-0937,

Darrin Devault (865-974-0150,