UT's Ready for the World Café has been serving attendees a taste of exotic food, but the students and staff who work behind the scenes are already getting their own experiences off the dinner table. 

That’s where the Ready for the World Café at the UT Visitors Center steps in as event workers served a cuisine of southern France on Thursday. 

On nine Thursdays of every semester, the students of the hotel, restaurant and tourism management (HRT) 445 class, the UT Culinary Institute and the Pellissippi Culinary Institute come together and prepare an international, multi-course banquet luncheon pertaining to a specific region of the world and all for $12 a person.

Tom Gaddis, director of Hospitality and Culinary Arts at Pellissippi and UT alumnus, said the event gives attendees a chance to experience new cultures.

“It gives you an opportunity to taste the flavor pallets of countries," Gaddis said. "While we emphasize Europe, we also emphasize Japan and some fusion. You get kids who have never been out of the area or who haven’t experimented in what they’ve eaten. So the first time they eat calamari or squid or the first time they eat venison it is always fun to watch their faces. It’s like ‘Oh my God, I ate Bambi.’”

Fusion is the mixture of two different regional foods and Gaddis used southwest egg rolls as an example, saying they takes southwest stir fried vegetables and spices and combines them with Asian eggrolls to form a unique dish that most people probably have never before eaten. The last two luncheons are based upon fusions of Japanese/French and Spanish/Italian cuisines, respectively.

Caitlin Mulloy, a senior in HRT, said the event offers an avenue for people in the same major to gain experience.

“A lot of us want to go into the restaurant industry and this is a great way for us to get our foot in the door,” Mulloy said. "I like serving. It’s fast paced and always fun and we get to try the food at the end.” 

The HRT students prepped for the banquet room for the luncheon the night before in Visitors Center on Wednesday. Centerpieces are selected and the tables are set up and prepared for the next day.

“It’s really a real life experience," Gaddis said. “If you look in the hotel business, those that are highly profitable are those that have great banquet service."

Students learn to remedy any problems that may arise in the heat of the moment not only from working with each other, but also from working with people who have many years under their belts in this field. 

“They learn so much under pressure that they would not learn just from a test,” Gaddis said.

Jared Jonas, a senior in HRT, said their are some things you can't learn from sitting at a desk. 

“It’s the hands-on that you don’t get from sitting in the classroom," Jonas said. "You learn a lot that you can’t learn in a classroom.”

The next luncheon is on March 21 and the theme is northern France. For tickets, see Marcia Johnson in 110 Jessie Harris Building, call 865-974-6645 or email rhtm@utk.edu. For a full schedule of themes, visit www.utk.edu/readyfortheworld/cafe.php.