The Ready for the World Café spring series kicked off to a delectable start Tuesday with authentic and affordable Irish cuisine, welcoming celebrity guest chef Garret Scanlan.

Students and faculty alike enjoyed Scanlan’s sumptuous four-course creations, including braised leg of lamb, mussels in an herb and white wine sauce, and chocolate liqueur mousse adorned with a chocolate heart in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. All this was included in the meager ticket price of $12.

“This is the best food I’m going to have in six months,” Richard Eiler, senior in advertising, said between mouthfuls of Irish stew. “It’s $12 for a four-course meal. You’d normally go to a restaurant and pay twice that for one mediocre course. This is high-quality food cooked by one of the best Irish chefs in the region.”

The cafés, which are run entirely by students in UT’s hotel, restaurant and tourism (HRT) program and Pellissippi’s culinary school, are held in the UT visitor’s center every Tuesday and present a different international theme each week. The affordability of the tickets, which can be bought a week in advance, makes Ready for the World an inexpensive opportunity for students who have tired of their typical humdrum lunch fare.

“It’s a terrific meal for a small price,” said Scanlan, who generously lent a genuine Irish spin on Tuesday’s festivities.

Originally hailing from Dublin, Scanlan was the youngest competitor in the 1976 European Culinary Olympics, which led to his recruitment by famous American hotel chain, Hilton. After working in 5-star establishments across the United States, he now resides in Tennessee, starring in a TV show, “90 Miles with Chef Garret,” and serving on the advisory board for UT and Pellissippi’s partnered culinary school.

“This program is a good way for students to get a hands-on education in how to operate and manage a restaurant,” Scanlan said.

Matthew Robuck, senior in hotel, restaurant and tourism management, agreed.

“I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 15, so while this isn’t exactly new to me, it’s still great experience,” Robuck said.

As general manager this week, Robuck got to learn the real-world application of the concepts he’s been studying in the classroom.

“We learn marketing, advertising, food costing, recipe selection, portions — we’re learning the business behind everything,” Robuck said.

Megan Cole, senior in food science, elaborated further.

“We all take turns and decide who’s going to be a host, who’s going to be a server, who’s going to do dish and kitchen. We develop our own menu, cost it and quantify it based on how many people are coming,” Cole said.

The café series is sponsored by US Foods, which donates $350 per lunch; any additional profit generated by ticket sales goes directly to a scholarship fund for HRT students.

Cole is excited by the prospect of all the culinary cultures Ready for the World promises to explore.

“My week that I direct will be German week, and next week is Japanese. I think the one I’m most excited for is Italian week, though,” Cole said.

A full schedule of dates and their corresponding countries can be found at utk.edu/readyfortheworld. Tickets for the lunches, which start at noon and end at 1 p.m., can also be purchased online.

At this price and level of convenience, Ready for the World is a venture that all students looking for a little more lively cuisine than cafeteria pizza are encouraged to partake in.

“There are probably a few places around Knoxville where you could eat authentic international cuisine, but then again it would be expensive and you’d have to find them,” Eiler concluded. “Here they bring the best and brightest from around and give you a quality dining experience for $12.”