About Your Guide
East Tennessee native Paula Johnson has made herself an expert in Knoxville history, haute cuisine, hole in the wall eateries, and hidden culinary hot spots. Since creating Knoxville Food Tours in 2010, Paula has become an extremely experienced tour guide and has personally led over 1000 food tours, hosting guests from all over the country and the world. She has also served as a step on guide for bus groups touring Knoxville and the surrounding area. Paula is committed to providing high quality, educational and informative tours in Knoxville.
Paula's first career in music education earned her the Permanent Professional Certificate in Piano Teaching from the Music Teachers National Association. She is now recognized as an Ambassador for Knoxville and Knox County by the City and County Mayors, the President of Visit Knoxville, and the Executive Director of the Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association. As a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Paula traces her local heritage back many generations. She has also been active in preserving the history of this area as a member of the East Tennessee Historical Society, Knox Heritage, and the Museum of Appalachia. Paula has enjoyed supporting local organizations such as the Peninsula Recovery Center as well as the national non-profit organization, No Kid Hungry.
During 2013, Paula organized a series of fundraising dinners for the historic Candoro Marble property celebrating the history of Knoxville’s "Tennessee Marble" industry. In 2014 she became the Food Columnist for Bearden/Sequoyah Life, Clinton Life, and Secret City Living Magazines and also had articles published in Fun Things to Do in the Mountains and the Hard Knox Independent. By 2016 Paula was asked to partner with the University of Tennessee’s Personal Development Food & Wine Program, and also with WDVX’s Tennessee Farm Table radio program. Knoxville Food Tours received the Service Supplier of the Year Award from the Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association in 2017, and Paula's first book, Lost Restaurants of Knoxville, a chronology of the history of dining and restaurants in Knoxville, was released the same year. In 2018 Paula was asked to present her first "Brown Bag" lecture at the East Tennessee Historical Society and also a workshop for the Alzheimer's Tennessee Designer Home and Garden Tour. Later that year she participated with the March of Dimes as a judge in their annual fundraising presentation and cooking competition, Signature Chefs Auction. Paula surpassed her 1000th tour during 2019 and was a guest speaker of the Knoxville History Project. Post-pandemic, tours resumed and Paula's second book, Unique Eats & Eateries of Knoxville, was published in 2022.
Paula began Knoxville Food Tours during the beginning of the revitalization and restoration of downtown Knoxville and it has run consistently through this intriguing time. Having seen many ideas come and go over the past few years, she can answer your questions and provide information to you about this important era of development.
Note from Paula:
Welcome to Knoxville, the birthplace of Tennessee! It is a city unlike any other – with a respect for its historic beginnings, and old mountain ways, mixed with new and modern business and trends. Rich farmland begins not far outside of town, and has produced nationally known food brands Bush’s Beans and Mayfield Dairy, as well as renowned chef favorites Benton’s Smoky Ham & Bacon, and Cruze Farm Dairy. White Lily Flour and JFG Coffee both got their start in Knoxville and operated here for over 100 years. Energy is a major focus in the city, with the close proximity to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the nation’s largest power provider, the Tennessee Valley Authority. The Entertainment industry plays a major role as well, with the Discovery Network and the Regal Entertainment Group both headquartered here. Knoxville is close to the tourist destination of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the most visited National Park in the United States, as well as Blackberry Farm, one of this country’s most lauded luxury resorts. Students from all 50 states and over 100 foreign countries come to study at the University of Tennessee, which reaches enrollment of 28,000. In Knoxville, we take pride in East Tennessee hospitality – treating and feeding you well. It’s Knoxville, Tennessee!