Food Frenzy

Culinary Chef Thor .jpg

Everyone loves food. That single factor is attracting students to the Kennesaw State’s…

Georgia (Oct 21, 2014)

Everyone loves food. That single factor is attracting students to the Kennesaw State’s culinary sustainability and hospitality program, according to Master Chef Thor Erlingsson, a lecturer in the program. 

“People are always looking for an experience. It’s not about only the food or the travel,” he said. “People want to experience what will be on that plate.”

As one of only five master-certified chefs in the state, Erlingsson says he may not know everything about every kind of tomato, but he does know how to share his worldly experiences, passion for food and understanding of sustainability with KSU students.

Erlingsson, a native of Iceland, arrived at Kennesaw State in January as the first full-time instructor in the Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality, a program that began in fall 2013. He teaches courses in culinary, hospitality and service management, and is involved in many of the Institute’s events.

The Institute of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality has more than 130 students as majors and more than 1,100 students taking courses in the program. That number continues to grow each semester, increasing from 210 students in fall 2013 to 582 in spring 2014.  

“Food is a great uniter,” said Christian Hardigree, director of the Institute. “It evokes memories, and people have an emotional response in how it nourishes us.”

Popular courses are Plant-based Cuisine, Japanese Cuisine and Food and Power in America, which focuses on lobbyists and business aspects of the industry, explained Hardigree.  New courses, like Spirits, Beers and Brews, Viticulture and Vinification, and Beer Culture will benefit from online resources that will be created by three part-time Institute faculty, who recently received a $10,000 Affordable Learning Textbook Transformation Grant from the State of Georgia.

“Sustainability is definitely an interest,” said Hardigree. “Students want to know where foods come from and understand the nutritional aspects.”

Students acquire hands-on experience at one of the University’s three farms, where students work as part of an organic agriculture class. Students also work during the Institute’s special events, including a holiday cooking session on Nov. 8. 

The Institute’s special events are open to the entire community as a way to showcase faculty talents and allow students to practice their skills, Hardigree said.   

Companies are taking notice. “This year was the first time that Coca-Cola took their annual Sustainability Summit off their own campus and brought it to ours,” Erlingsson said.  

In October, Atlanta’s Visionary Dinner, an event focused on sustainability and hosted by Whole Foods, invited Erlingsson and 20 KSU students to prepare and serve the third course: a feast of North Atlantic cod, creamy barley, pickled chili peppers, sweet potatoes and topped with Skyr, an Icelandic cultured dairy product similar to a thick yogurt. A self-proclaimed pescatarian, Erlingsson had the fish flown in from his native Iceland.

His roots and his more than 20 years of experience are bringing a new perspective to KSU students.

“The reason I am in education today, is because I love to bring my experiences from industry straight to students,” Erlingsson said. “This is one of the fastest growing industries with more than a half million jobs available annually. I want to help students start their love of the industry.”


- Tiffany Capuano; Photo by David Caselli 



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit