Chef Greg Paulson, and his wife Beth, stand in front of Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny, Ireland, with the culinary students that participated in the “Irish Food and Cuisine” course.
Back row (from left to right) Billy Morgan, Hazel Dutton, Kasey Cromer, Earnest Simpson, and Kerry Klemm.
Front row (from left to right) Greg Paulson, Beth Paulson, Katie Lambert, Toni Gaulding, Stephanie Walraven, Trey Sutton, and Ross Wood.
(Northwest Georgia / Ireland) – Chef Greg Paulson, director of Culinary Arts at Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC), has always brought international cooking techniques to his kitchen-lab to teach students the various cooking methods used in other countries.
This summer, he exposed students to Irish cuisine by bringing them to Ireland.
“Going outside the country and learning from the Irish chefs, their cuisine, and some of the fresh ingredients, was just phenomenal to the students,” said Paulson.
The ten-day course “Irish Food and Culture,” was taught at the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) in Waterford, Ireland, just outside of Dublin. Ten students took part in the chance-of-a-lifetime course which also included field trips to various markets, restaurants, butcheries, fromage (cheese) shops, famous landmarks, castles, and beaches.
Georgia Northwestern was the first college in the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) to take part in the international agreement between the Waterford Institute of Technology and the TCSG.
According to Paulson, one of the primary reasons GNTC was chosen was because TCSG officials were impressed by the culinary lunches that the Culinary Arts program offers to the public, which feature international cuisine.
“Dr. Ian Bond, executive director of the International Center at TCSG, was very impressed with our ‘Fundamentals of Restaurant Operations’ course,” said Paulson. “As part of this course the students create the menu, prepare the food, serve it to the public, and interact with the customers.”
Culinary student Trey Sutton of Adairsville said that the agriculturally-driven aspects of the food and culture of Ireland were what he liked the best.
“They have what’s called 100 percent traceability where every piece of meat, fish, or dairy product can be traced all the way back to the farmer,” said Sutton. “There are tracing numbers for everything that is served in the restaurants. You are not going to find better ingredients.”
“It is very normal for a restaurant in Ireland to have a special where they picked the vegetables that morning,” continued Sutton.
According to Ross Wood of Cave Spring, the all-natural aspects of Irish cuisine were the most memorable part of the trip for him as well.
“It’s a new world over there and everything is just so vastly different from what you already know, nothing is processed or anything,” said Wood. “If you buy a carton of milk you look on the back of it and see the name of the farmer who cultivated it and where his farm is – they just pay a lot more attention to the finer details.”
Toni Gaulding of Rome said that the best part of the trip for her was working side-by-side with the Irish chefs.
“They didn’t make us feel like we were out of place or anything,” said Gaulding. “It was intimidating for someone like me. I’m a homemaker, so it’s a little scary, but they took that fear away and I think that was what impressed me the most.”
The Culinary Arts program is taught in the Woodlee Building on the Floyd County Campus of GNTC. The building is an early 20th century dwelling that has been renovated and updated to include a first-class teaching kitchen, commercial-grade equipment, and a refined serving area.
Paulson says that he is entertaining the thought of doing a nine-day course in France and Germany in the future and hopefully making international experiences an ongoing part of the program.
“Growing up in my hometown, there was a travel agency with a large marquee that stated ‘see the world before you leave it,’” said Paulson. “That was a very impressionable declaration for me and I have genuinely always guided my career path based on that statement.”
“Because of that, I implore all of my students to travel and discover the vast culinary experiences, both regional and international,” he continued.
Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 13,734 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,876 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 5,858 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start.
Chef Greg Paulson forages for fresh seaweed in Ireland.