The UT Culinary Program features some of the most accomplished chefs in the Southeast as its instructors.
Chef Greg J. Eisele (CEC), UT Culinary Program Director
Chef Greg J. Eisele is director of the UT Culinary Program. He began his culinary career as a 15-year-old busboy at the famous Seventh Inn Restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri. From there, he rapidly moved from the dining room staff to the kitchen team, and after two short years, he was promoted to sous chef then executive sous chef, spending eight years in that position.
Recognizing his need for professional education, Chef Eisele graduated at Forrest Park via the American Culinary Federation and completed a pastry chef internship at the Adams Mark Hotel. He later worked for ARAMARK Corporation for 25 years as a district executive chef, catering events for up to 30,000 people and managing over 25 chefs.
Throughout the years, Chef Eisele has become a frequent guest/chef on some of Knoxville’s local television stations. It was his passion for the culinary industry that drove peers to elect him as president of the American Culinary Federation’s Smoky Mountain Chapter.
This same passion, along with his personal culinary skills and his achievements in training and competition, led to his appointment as director of the UT Culinary Program.
Chef Greg has earned a number of certifications and awards:
President, American Culinary Federation – Smoky Mountain Chapter
Certified Chef de Cuisine and ProChef-II – Culinary Institute of America
Hospitality & Tourism Educator of the Year, Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Hospitality Tourism (2021)
Hospitality Educator of the Year, Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association (2021)
1st Place Gold Medal, James Beard Competition
1st Place, Themed Buffet and Décor, March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction
1st Place Gold Medal, ARAMARK’s “Best of the Best” (2 Time Winner)
1st Place Gold Medal, ARAMARK’S ACE Mystery Basket Competition
Silver Medal, National ACE Mystery Basket Competition, American Culinary Federation
1st Place Gold Medal, ARAMARK Culinary Showcase (2 Time Winner)
Southern Regional ACE Culinary Competition Instructor and Coordinator (2008-2009)
District Culinary Champion, ARAMARK (2009)
Established UT Knoxville as a Test Recipe Site for ARAMARK Recipe Research and Development program (2009)
Chef Robert Allen (CEC)
Chef Robert Allen is an executive chef based in Lenoir City, Tennessee.
He is a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas, where he served on the advisory board and worked directly with students. He garnered his first local honor by winning the March of Dimes Signature Chefs competition with his Cuban Sandwich Cigar, a dish he learned to make while working for Escondido Golf & Lake Club in Horseshoe Bay, Texas.
Chef Allen has a passion for cooking and enjoys sharing his knowledge with others.
Chef Matt Cline
Chef Matt Cline is a Knoxville native who graduated from the UT Culinary Program in December 2019.
Shortly after graduation Cline “seized the opportunity” to work as a chef in the UT Conference Center. “Since then, I have remained dedicated to this path, immersing myself in the culinary world that has truly become my calling,” he said.
Following high school, Cline embarked on a three-year journey in the U.S. Navy, where he served as a boatswain’s mate. Soon after joining the ship, he found himself assigned to the kitchen as a mess cook. It was during this time he had his initial encounter with cooking and discovered an unexpected passion.
After his stint in the Navy, Cline returned to Knoxville and helped manage his family’s business and also worked in a real estate office before entering the UT Culinary Program. He now serves as an adjunct instructor for the program.
Chef Dave H. Colburn, Jr. (CEC)
Chef David Colburn is an ACF Certified Executive Chef and has been in the culinary industry for 30 plus years. He was previously the food and beverage director/executive chef of the Fee Hendrick Entertainment Group. He also served as the American Culinary Federation Chapter President in East Tennessee for 17 years. Chef Colburn graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in 1997.
Chef Dadang Djajadiredja (CEC)
Indonesia-born executive chef Dadang (“DJ”) Djajadiredja (CEC, CFBE, CHE) has acquired three American Culinary Federation certifications throughout a 35-year career. Chef DJ has led culinary teams at country clubs, cruise ships, hotels, and culinary schools from New York to Texas.
Chef Aaron Rittgers
Chef Aaron Rittgers joined the UT Culinary Program in August 2022 after earning a certificate in the culinary arts from UT. He initially began as a first cook in the UT Conference Center and was promoted to sous chef and assistant culinary instructor in April 2022.
Chef Aaron’s happiest moments in the kitchen are when he’s sharing his passion for cooking with students enrolled in the various UT culinary programs.
Chef Aaron previously served for 27 years in the United States Air Force, retiring in 2021 as a Lieutenant Colonel. A military policeman by trade, Chef Aaron has held a variety of leadership positions within the Air Force Security Forces careerfield. He has led security support for the President of the United States to include security of Air Force One and Two, base law enforcement and security operations, nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missile security, and served as Officer-in-Charge of the Air Force in Europe’s combat pre-deployment training center.
Over the course of his career, Chef Aaron has commanded at the Air Force Squadron-level four times and completed eight combat deployments in the Middle East totaling over 1,500 days in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, Operations IRAQI and ENDURING FREEDOM, Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, and Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL.
Chef Aaron earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice in 2000, an undergraduate degree in political science from Syracuse University in 2003, and a graduate degree in international relations from the University of Oklahoma in 2007. He is also a graduate of the Air Force Command and Staff College, the National Intelligence University in Washington D.C., and the Air Force War College.
Chef Aaron is originally from Cooperstown, New York. He is married to the former Darlene Santos and they have three adult children; Jeffrey, Gunnar, and Selena. When not in the kitchen, Chef Aaron enjoys traveling, watching college athletics, smoking meats, and is a passionate scotch and cigar aficionado.
Chef Joel Werner
Chef Joel Werner is the executive chef of the Firetower at Blackberry Mountain in Walland, Tennessee. He grew up spending his weekends picking vegetables from his grandparents’ garden, cooking family dinner with his dad after school, and soaking in the atmosphere of time around the table with a good meal. He knew from an early age that his future was in the kitchen.
After attending culinary school at Johnson & Wales University, he honed his culinary skills in a variety of styles, working at restaurants in different parts of the country. In 2015, Chef Werner joined the Blackberry Farm team as a line cook in The Barn.
Having grown up with a passion for his family’s Italian heritage, he quickly saw the parallel of the regional-style of cooking and embraced a new-found love for Southern hospitality. Taking those same influences with him to Blackberry Mountain, Chef Werner wants his guests to feel welcome and at home in the dining room.
Chef Brandon Wilson (PCEC)
Chef Branon Wilson is the owner of Gonzo Gourmet food truck and catering company, and Gonzo Gourmet Farm. He is a Personal Certified Executive Chef through the American Culinary Federation (one of only five in the country). He is also the 2nd Vice President of the ACF Smoky Mountain Chapter.
Chef Brandon has spent more than 20 years in the service industry, beginning at age 15 at IHOP in Atlanta as a dishwasher. He had a dream of opening his own restaurant one day. He graduated from the UT Culinary Program in 2013.
He opened Gonzo Gourmet food truck in 2013. He and his wife Kim incorporated Gonzo Farm a few years later. Chef Brandon is also the author of “Gonzo Gourmet: Tales and Tastes from a Farmer and his Food Truck.“
Also, he has cooked in various high-end kitchens across the country including Leopard Lounge in Atlanta, Orchards and L’Auberge in Sedona, Ariz., and Windows on the Park in Knoxville.
Learn More about our Culinary Program
You’re invited to a complimentary private consultation with Chef Greg and tour of our culinary facilities at the UT Conference Center in downtown Knoxville.