Golden Onion Judges Announced
Six Georgians will team up to crown winner of the 3rd Annual Professional Cooking Competition Showcasing Vidalia® Onions

March 13, 2014 | from admin

Chefs from across Georgia will face-off on Sunday, April 27, 2014, for the 3rd annual Golden Onion professional cooking competition that takes place during the 37th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival. This cook-off showcases the Vidalia® onion, Georgia’s official state vegetable, and also offers a platform for chefs across Georgia to display their skills and creativity.

Evaluating each dish on the basis of taste (50%), chef’s verbal presentation (5%), visual presentation (10%), creativity (15%), overall use of Vidalia® onions (15%), and following the recipe submitted during the application process (5%), a panel of five judges will taste and score the competition:

Chef Holly Chute is executive chef of the Georgia Governor’s Mansion. A graduate of the renowned Culinary Institute of America, Chute first arrived at the Governor’s Mansion in 1981 as Chef and Foods Manager. Since then, she has helmed the kitchen for six different Governors: Governor George Busbee, Governor Joe Frank Harris, Governor Zell Miller, Governor Roy Barnes, Governor Sonny Perdue, and now Governor Nathan Deal. At the Governor’s Mansion, Chef Chute oversees all meals served, from private family meals to official state dinners. Chute is an active member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and served as a Georgia Grown Executive Chef in 2012.

Chef Linton Hopkins is chef/owner of several celebrated Atlanta enterprises including Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House, H&F Bread Co., H&F Bottle Shop, three H&F Burger outposts in Turner Field, and Eugene Kitchen, a proprietary food and beverage development company. A graduate of Emory University and the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, NY, Hopkins honed his skills at restaurants in New Orleans and Washington, DC before returning to his hometown with wife Gina. He helped found the Peachtree Road Farmer’s Market, is a member of Georgia Organics chef’s advisory committee, the Atlanta Local Foods Initiative, Food & Wine Magazine’s Grow for Good campaign, and served as President of the Board of Directors for the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2012. He has been named Best New Chef and Best New Chef All-Stars by Food and Wine Magazine and in 2012 won the coveted James Beard Award Best Chef – Southeast. He’s competed on Iron Chef America and is co-host of Feed Radio, a bi-monthly AM radio show broadcast.

Chef Christopher Smith, C.F.B.E., is corporate director of food and beverage and corporate executive chef for Herschend Family Entertainment. Since August 2011, he’s been responsible for culinary operations in over 25 properties across the country. His hospitality career began in England with stints at the famous Savoy Hotel, Claridges Hotel and Stones Chop House in London. He has held management and executive chef roles at many well-known companies such as Walt Disney World, Marriott Hotels, Hilton Hotels, and Universal Studios and served as Director of Operations with Levy Restaurants at Orange County Convention Center and Georgia World Congress Center, catering to groups of up to 100,000 per show and companies including Microsoft, McDonald’s, and International Homebuilders Show.

Bob Stafford is director of the Vidalia® Onion Business Council, a role he’s held since the mid-1990s. Among Stafford’s responsibilities is lobbying on behalf of farmers, working with researchers to improve the annual crop, and working to protect the Vidalia trademark. Stafford was inducted into the Vidalia® Onion Hall of Fame in February 2010. Prior to his current position, he worked with the Florida Department of Agriculture for 34 years.

Hope S. Philbrick is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and editor who conceived of and helped launch the Golden Onion competition. She has published thousands of articles in dozens of publications including Atlanta Journal-Constitution, San Francisco Chronicle and New York Post. She’s served as contributing editor to Epicure, managing editor of Restaurant Forum and assistant editor of Wine Report magazines. She has reviewed restaurants for many publications, including Where Atlanta, Where Nashville and The Atlantan, and authored weekly dining columns for Sunday Paper and Southern Voice. She’s judged several culinary competitions, including the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off, S. Pellegrino “Almost Famous” Chef Competition, Taste of Atlanta, Beaufort S.C. Shrimp Festival, and International Wine Summit. She recently founded

New this year, the judging team will include a floor judge to monitor the competition and insure all rules and guidelines are met. This new role was conceived of and will be filled in 2014 by the inaugural Golden Onion winner:

Chef Hilary White, winner of the inaugural Golden Onion and owner/executive chef of The Hil: A Restaurant at Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., will serve as floor judge. White grew up in rural Shelby, Ohio, and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. She spent much of her early career working with Atlanta’s Buckhead Life Restaurant Group and earned particular recognition when, in 2000, she was named the company’s first female executive chef at the award-winning 103 West in Buckhead. When later selecting a location for her own restaurant, she was drawn to the Serenbe community’s collective commitment to sustainability. She opened The Hil in 2007, with her husband, Jim, and her mother, Sandy Pitsch. White is an active member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Southern Foodways Alliance and served as a Georgia Grown Executive Chef in 2012.

About the Golden Onion

The Golden Onion professional cooking competition challenges 12 Georgia chefs to create and prepare recipes featuring Vidalia® onions. Competing chefs will have one hour to prepare and present their recipes. The First Place champion will be presented the Golden Onion trophy to hold for one year along with a cash prize of $500. The second place winner will receive $250 and the third place winner $100. All winners will also receive commemorative plaques. The Golden Onion competition will be held at the Vidalia Community Center, 107 Old Airport Road in Vidalia, Ga. The event is open to the public starting at 12:30 p.m. Admission is free. For details visit

About the Vidalia Onion Festival

Celebrating its 37th year in 2014, the Vidalia Onion Festival will be held April 24-27 in Vidalia, Ga. The event has been featured on The Food Network and recognized as one of the “5 Don’t-Miss Festivals Across the U.S.” by MSNBC. The four-day festival offers something for everyone, including the Miss Vidalia Onion Pageant, a children’s parade, outdoor music concerts, an arts and crafts festival, opening ceremonies and fireworks, car show, the Kiwanis Onion Run, and the Famous onion eating contest. Come to Vidalia to experience the “whole onion.” For more information, visit

About Vidalia® Onions

Vidalia® Onions are the pioneer of sweet onions and Georgia’s official state vegetable. Grown only in the mild climate and unique soil surrounding Vidalia, Ga., they’re loved by chefs and home cooks throughout the world. Vidalia® onions are hand-planted and hand-harvested each year, with sweet, juicy bulbs available seasonally from late April to late August. Their mild, sweet taste makes Vidalia® onions more versatile than stronger onions. And these Georgia sweeties are a low-calorie, fat, cholesterol, and sodium-free way to get a healthy dose of Vitamin C. For more information, visit

About the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA)

The GRA’s mission is to serve as the voice for Georgia’s Restaurants in Advocacy, Education and Awareness. The GRA is sanctioned by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to operate Georgia’s only not-for-profit representing the state’s foodservice industry. From large chains to start-ups, the GRA helps make Georgia a better place for restaurants to do business and helps make restaurants better for Georgia. For more information, visit

About Georgia Grown Executive Chefs

The Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Restaurant Association appoint four Georgia Grown Executive Chefs each year, as part of a program that debuted in 2012. The goal of the program is to help raise awareness about the availability of the quality, local products that can be found in Georgia and promote relationships between chefs and farmers across the state.


Ingrid M. Varn

Executive Director, Vidalia Area CVB


Hope S. Philbrick

Freelance Writer & Editor / Golden Onion Judge