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  • 18 Apr 2014 9:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    This short, 11-question survey intends to assess the regional market demand for Louisiana appellation oysters (specialty oysters of higher quality from basins with optimal conditions, such as Caminada Bay, Champagne Bay, or Independence Island. These oysters would be similar in quality to other "boutique" oysters such as Blue Points, Beau Soleils, or Kumamotos).

    The findings will help develop strategies to ensure the Louisiana’s oyster industry, and our nation’s restaurants, remain economically competitive.
    Total time to take the survey is approximately 4 minutes. To begin, please click the link below. Thank you for your time and assistance.
  • 18 Apr 2014 9:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Food Network’s "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook‐Off" Season 3 champion Herschel Walker is bringing Herschel’s 34 Chicken & Ribs Kitchen to Atlanta. Herschel proved to the world he knows how to cook and now it is time to expand his operations after opening his first restaurant in Athens in 2013.

    Herschel’s offers a fresh approach to Southern family favorites with unique culinary creations while utilizing the latest technology including easy-to-operate tableside ordering, payment and inventory systems. Herschel Walker is a Georgia icon known for his athletic achievements, but even more impressive is his business acumen and his natural humility. Anyone who has met Herschel’s knows his sincerity and good works.

    Qualified operators should contact George Fiorile of DD Leisure Management Corp. at (302) 857-2199 to discuss available opportunities.
  • 18 Apr 2014 8:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: National Restaurant Association 

    Driven by a stronger economy and historically high levels of pent-up demand among consumers, restaurant- industry sales are expected to hit a record high in 2014. According to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Industry Forecast report, restaurant-and-foodservice sales are projected to total $683.4 billion in 2014, up 3.6 percent from 2013.

    In inflation-adjusted terms, industry sales are projected to increase 1.2 percent in 2014. Although 2014 will represent the fifth consecutive year of real growth in restaurant sales, the gains remain below what would be expected during a normal post-recession period.

    In 2014, the restaurant industry will employ 13.5 million individuals and remain the nation’s second-largest private sector employer. The restaurant workforce continued to grow at a robust rate in 2013, keeping the industry among the economy’s leaders in job creation. Eating and-drinking places are projected to add jobs at a 2.8 percent rate in 2014, which will represent the 15th consecutive year in which industry job growth outpaced the overall economy.

  • 17 Apr 2014 2:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    FOOD NETWORK'S new hit show, GUY'S GROCERY GAMES, is giving YOU the chance to win up to $20,000!

    Do you have the ability to make something out of nothing? Can your recipes prove as inventive as they are delicious? Is your personality as memorable as your food?

    We are holding a nationwide search - looking for outgoing, highly skilled chefs and professional cooks from all backgrounds, any style of cooking welcome. Whether you cook at a fine dining restaurant or own your own diner, are an executive chef, sous chef, private chef or caterer – if you think you have the chops to make mincemeat out of the competition, you want to apply!

    From the producers of Food Network’s THE GREAT FOOD TRUCK RACE
    This fast-paced challenge puts talented chefs and professional cooks to the test in the ultimate supermarket themed showdown!

    To navigate the aisles of this high-pressure competition, you’re going to need clever cooking solutions AND supermarket savvy. From shopping on a budget to substituting out-of-stock ingredients, contestants will have to race against the clock to survive. If you make your living in a professional kitchen and think you have what it takes to be the last chef standing, then Guy Fieri is ready to put you to the test!!

    To apply, please email beontv@foodnetwork.com, ggg@rtvshows.com.

    **Please put your CITY/STATE in the subject line of the email**
    In the email we will need your NAME, PHONE NUMBER, your
    current title of OCCUPATION, a description of your CULINARY
    BACKGROUND, a recent PHOTO of you, a few PHOTOS OF
    DISHES you have created, AND why you think you have what it
    takes to win!
  • 16 Apr 2014 4:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The Wings over North Georgia Air Show still has some vendor space available for their October 18-19, 2014 show.

    The show is still seeking:
    • 1 Pizza By-The-Slice Vendor
    • 1 Indian Street Food Vendor (Will not be duplicated.)
    • 1 Chinese Food Vendor (Will not be duplicated.)
    • 1 Japanese/Sushi Vendor (Will not be duplicated.)
    • 1 Vietnamese Street Food Vendor (Will not be duplicated.)
    • 1 Seafood: Fish & Chips, Shrimp & Chips, Lobster Roll Vendor (Lobster will not be duplicated.)
    • 1 Fried Chicken/Wings Vendor (Will not be duplicated.)
    • Other 2 Spaces are reserved for other types of items.
    For more information, contact Paula Harper-Hill, Food & Beverage Director at (770) 490-6871 or paulaharpersbizzare@yahoo.com.
  • 16 Apr 2014 4:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: The Wall Street Journal
    By ERIC MORATH

    Grocery shoppers may soon need more green in their wallets to afford their next salad.

    The cost of fresh produce is poised to jump in the coming months as a three-year drought in California shows few signs of abating, according to an Arizona State University study set to be released Wednesday.

    The study found a head of lettuce could increase in price as much as 62 cents to $2.44; avocado prices could rise 35 cents to $1.60 each; and tomatoes could cost 45 cents more at $2.84 per pound. (The run-up in produce prices is in line with other projections showing that overall food cost gains are expected to accelerate this year.)

    The latest projections were compiled by Timothy Richards, an agribusiness professor at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business. He studied the drought’s effect on farmland and consumer purchasing trends to determine the eight fresh fruits and vegetables likely to see the largest price increases this spring and summer.

    And the price increases may already be happening. Grocery prices rose by 0.5% for the second-straight month in March, according to the Labor Department’s consumer-price index, released Tuesday. It was the largest two-month gain in the food-at-home category since 2011. Fruit and vegetable prices rose 0.9% last month, after a 1.1% gain in February. Meat and dairy prices are also increasing. Meanwhile, overall consumer prices rose just 0.2% last month, as broader inflation in the economy remains tepid.

    California is the largest domestic producer of each of the products Mr. Richards identified, ranging from grapes to peppers. And in the case of avocados, it’s the only state with a significant crop.

    The drought has wiped out between 10% and 20% of California crops for the eight items, but the size of the expected price increases varies widely. Lettuce prices could jump as much as 34% and avocado prices could rise 28%, the largest projected increases.

    “People are the least price-sensitive when it comes to those items, and they’re willing to pay what it takes to get them,” Mr. Richards said. “It’s hard to make a salad without lettuce.”

    In basic economic terms, the drought reduces supply, which puts upward pressure on prices. But how high the price can rise is determined by consumers’ willingness to pay more against their ability to find a substitute.

    Packaged salads, for example, would increase in price by only 13%, even though many of the ingredients in them are projected to increase in cost by a greater percentage. That’s because consumers view premade salads as a “luxury” good and would readily switch to lower-cost alternative if the price gets too high, Mr. Richards said. They could chop the lettuce themselves or buy frozen vegetables.

    The impact could spread beyond the produce aisle. Items such as lettuce, tomatoes and peppers are commonly used in deli sandwiches and salsas, among other products. The drought could also cause those items to cost more.

    Still, the run-up in prices is likely to be somewhat temporary, Mr. Richards said. When prices increase, farmers outside of California, including foreign suppliers, will be incentivized to ship more crops to the U.S. That will in turn put downward pressure on costs.

    But with water-supply problems expected to persist for years, California farmers will have some difficult choices to make, he said. They’ll need to determine which crops should receive the limited amount of available water, and which should be allowed to fall away.

    “We could be looking at future,” he said, “where California is no longer bread basket for the country.”
  • 11 Apr 2014 4:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Vidalia, Georgia, USA (April 11, 2014) - The ten Georgia chefs who will compete in the 3rd Annual Golden Onion have revealed their recipes. An impressive range of cooking skills and techniques will be on display as the dishes are prepared during the professional cooking competition. Each competitor will have one hour to prepare his or her dish.

    Golden Onion showcases the Vidalia® onion, Georgia’s official state vegetable, and also serves as a platform for chefs across Georgia to display their skills and creativity. It will be held on Sunday, April 27, 2014, in Vidalia, Ga., during the 37th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival.

    Chef Costanzo Astarita, executive chef at Baraonda Ristorante & Bar in Atlanta, will prepare “Georgia shrimp Vidalia® onion remoulade, chickpea Vidalia pancake, Vidalia® onion fennel slaw, and Vidalia® onion ginger oil.”

    Chef Jennifer Booker, owner and executive chef of Your Resident Gourmet in Lilburn, will prepare “Vidalia® onion, wild mushroom and gruyere tartlets.”

    Chef Brian Justice, chef and owner of Tasteful Temptations Café in Brunswick, who was awarded second place during the 2nd annual Golden Onion competition, will prepare “pan-seared ahi tuna on a bed of pickled Vidalia® onions and fresh ginger topped with avocado aioli and thin-sliced Vidalia® onion sprouts served with a baby green bundle wrapped with a cucumber sash on top of a red pepper emulsion, dressed with Vidalia® onion and Georgia peanut dressing and garnished with soy foam, sesame and wasabi crusted pecans, and crispy sweet Vidalia tobacco onions.”

    Chef Pano Karatassos, executive chef of Kyma in Atlanta, will prepare “Vidalia® onion studded halibut,” which will have a Vidalia® onion crust and be slow poached in Vidalia® onion infused olive oil and accompanied by Vidalia® onion stew, and a Vidalia® onion salad.

    Chef David Larkworthy, executive chef and founder of 5 Seasons Brewing Company in Atlanta, will prepare “Vidalia® onion Ossabaw pork burgers.”

    Chef Roberto Leoci, executive chef and owner of Leoci’s Trattoria in Savannah, who was awarded third place during the 2nd annual Golden Onion competition, will prepare “sea trout PLT topped with Vidalia® onion aioli.”

    Chef Danny Mellman, executive chef and owner of Harvest on Main and Blue Ridge Grocery in Blue Ridge, will prepare “Toasted Vidalia pudding with coddled farm egg and arugula, pickle and pecan salad.”

    Chef Austin Rocconi, executive chef for Le Vigne Restaurant at Montaluce in Dahlonega, who was awarded third place during the inaugural Golden Onion competition in 2012, will prepare “Vidalia® Onion Variations,” including Vidalia® onion noodles, Vidalia® onion “tofu,” charred Vidalia® onion broth, Vidalia® onion bulbs, and various Vidalia® onion garnishes.

    Chef Marc Taft, executive chef and owner of Chicken & The Egg in Marietta, will prepare “pan-seared Enchanted Springs Georgia Mountain trout with baby Vidalia, sweet potato, Brussels sprout and apple hash, Vidalia® onion soubise, pickled Vidalia buds and Riverview Farms ham hock reduction.”

    Chef Jordan Wakefield, executive chef and owner of Smoke Ring in Atlanta, will prepare “White Oak Pastures Beef & Foie Gras Sliders with grilled avocado and Vidalia® onion salad.”

    Recipe booklets featuring all competitors’ recipes will be available at the event for $10 each. Admission to Golden Onion is free.

    Chef competitors will each prepare eight plates of their entry dish. Five plates will be presented to judges, one reserved for photography, and two plates will be raffled off. The raffle offers tasting opportunities for spectators. Raffle tickets cost $1 each. With 10 competitors, there are 20 chances to win.

    Dishes will be judged on the basis of taste (50%), oral presentation (5%), visual presentation (10%), creativity (15%), overall use of Vidalia® onions (15%), and following the recipe submitted during the application process (5%).

    About the Golden Onion

    The Golden Onion professional cooking competition challenges 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 www.vidaliaonionfestival.com.

    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 www.vidaliaonionfestival.com.

    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 www.VidaliaOnion.org.

    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 www.garestaurants.org.

    NOTE: HIGH-RES PHOTOS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST.

    CONTACTS:

    Ingrid M. Varn
    Executive Director, Vidalia Area CVB
    vacvb@bellsouth.net
    912.538.8687

    Hope S. Philbrick
    Freelance Writer & Editor / Golden Onion Judge
    hopesp95@yahoo.com
    404.323.4699

    ###

  • 11 Apr 2014 12:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    With the help of Georgia Restaurant Association, Atlanta Chef Association, and many other incredible supporters, the first place teams will receive an all expense paid trip to represent Georgia at the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundations ProStart National Competition in Minnesota May 2-6, 2014. Join us in wishing them the well. 

    The Hospitality Education Foundation of Georgia (HEFG) would like to thank everyone for their support and participation in the 2014 ProStart Championship.

    Georgia’s ProStart Culinary Championships Awards were presented to:
    First Place – South Forsyth High School
    Second Place – Maxwell High School
    Third Place – Grovetown High School

    Georgia’s ProStart Management Championships Awards were presented to:
    First Place– Marietta High School
    Second Place– Charles Drew High School
    Third Place– Grayson Tech High School

    2014 ProStart Teacher of the year was presented to
    Deborah Grant – Maxwell High School

    Congratulations to all 11 culinary teams and 4 management teams from high schools across Georgia who impressed the judges and attendees with their skill and entrepreneurial spirit.

    Thank you to the sponsors, judges, students, teachers, mentors and volunteers for making the event possible.

    ABOUT ‘HEFG
    Established in 1989, The Hospitality Education Foundation of Georgia (HEFG) is a 501(c)3 whose dedicated to providing direct support for the education of hospitality and foodservice students, by facilitating industry experiences and connecting the classroom with industry professionals and resources. Shaping students' future with real world experiences will develop the best members for our industry and the community. For more information, contact Lee Gray Executive Director LeeGray@HEFG.org 678-887-8009.
  • 11 Apr 2014 12:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Are you opening your very first restaurant, or know somebody who is, but you lack a lot of restaurant experience? Would you welcome the advice of a professional restaurant consultant?

    Show producers are casting for a new show and looking for first-time owners that can use some professional help with their opening. In exchange for participation, the show offers up to $20,000 worth of labor and materials.

    Eligibility criteria:
    • Ideal candidate is a first-time restaurant owner that will be opening within two months.
    • Restaurant cannot be a chain or franchise.
    • Restaurant must be full service (no delis, bakeries, take-out), serve alcohol and have at least 30 seats.
    • Owner wants/needs the help of a restaurant consultant.
    • Owner is a great character and has other people helping him/her.
    • Owner must be open to having the show producers film in the restaurant for approximately 7 days.
    For further details, please email dasha.lomonova@gmail.com.
  • 08 Apr 2014 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Vidalia, Georgia, USA (March 28, 2014) - Eleven Georgia chefs will soon slice and dice the official state vegetable at the 37th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival. In the process, they’ll prove smiles are more common than tears when it comes to working with Vidalia® onions.

    The 3rd Annual Golden Onion will be held on Sunday, April 27, 2014, in Vidalia, Ga., on the final afternoon of the 37th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival. This professional cooking competition showcases the famed Vidalia® onion and also serves as a platform for chefs across Georgia to display their skills and creativity.

    From the mountains to the islands, fine dining to casual eateries, new business ventures to long-standing community mainstays, the 2014 roster of chef competitors represents a cross-section of Georgia restaurants and cuisine:

    Chef Costanzo Astarita, executive chef at Baraonda Ristorante in Atlanta, Ga., is originally from Italy’s Island of Capri. When his food-centric family immigrated to Bermuda, he honed his skills at The Bermuda Culinary School and later in the United Kingdom. In 1989 he settled in Georgia and became the food and beverage director at Château Élan in Braselton, Ga. After revamping the resort’s culinary program, Astarita decided to realize his dream of becoming a business owner. Along with business partner and fellow countryman Mario Maccarone, he launched C+M Gastronomy Group, which includes the restaurants Baraonda, Publik Draft House and Fig Jam Kitchen & Bar. Astarita says that he enjoys cooking with Vidalia® onions “first and foremost because they are a Georgia Grown product and grown locally. Secondly, we enjoy the mild flavor that the onions have whether raw or cooked. Also, our experience has shown that they add a mild sweetness to any dish they are used in.”

    Chef Jennifer Hill Booker,
    owner and executive chef of Your Resident Gourmet in Lilburn, Ga., was named a Georgia Grown Executive Chef in 2013. She authored Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, to be released by Pelican Publishing House on September 1. She writes a weekly newsletter, is a contributing columnist and recipe developer for several magazine titles, and hosts Basil Radio Show. She partnered with Hard Rock Café-Atlanta for its culinary series, served as a culinary expert for Williams-Sonoma, and taught at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts-Atlanta. A member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Booker is co-chair of its farm and garden initiative. After earning a B.A. from The University of Tulsa, she completed Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee’s Culinary Arts program and later earned a Cuisine de Base Certificate from Le Cordon Bleu-Paris. She led Grayson Technical High School’s efforts to earn accreditation through The American Culinary Federation, making it the first school in Georgia to boast such honors. Of Vidalia® onions, she says that they “add a great flavor to every savory dish without the bite or bitterness of other onions. I look at Vidalia onions as a delicacy because I can only get them while in season and only from Vidalia, Georgia. So I make a point of using them and have created specialty dishes just so I can use more Vidalia onions.”

    Chef Jason Brumfiel, executive chef of The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort on St. Simons Island, Ga., was raised in Cambridge City, Ind. He attended Chowan College, N.C., to play football, working in the school café to earn money and learn about catering and volume cooking. Local football hero, businessman and ex-NFL player Bob Van Pelt encouraged Brumfiel to learn the restaurant industry. He spent time in kitchens in New Orleans, La., apprenticed with Chef John McCracken, C.E.C., in Jamestown, N.C., and studied at Guilford Tech Culinary School. In the United Kingdom, Brumfiel worked at the Rascasse in Leeds, the Farsyde Restaurant in Ilkley, and Mantra Restaurant in Burley-in-Wharfedale. In 2004, he returned to the U.S. and worked at the Cloister Hotel, Sea Island as chef in the River Bar, then chef de cuisine for the in-room dining experiences. “Vidalia onions speak of everything that is great about southern cooking,” he says. “The low sulfur in the soil is what makes them so sweet. Vidalia onions caramelize beautifully and yet are still very sweet and mild in the raw.”

    Chef Brian Justice, chef and owner of Tasteful Temptations Café in Brunswick, Ga., is a Georgia native. He started working at the Sea Island Company in 1992, completed the Apprentice Cook Program and was named lead cook/banquet chef at The Cloister, Sea Island. Six years later, he moved to the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., where he held multiple positions. In 2004 he leapt at the opportunity to drive fresh and frozen foods across the U.S. for Frozen Foods Express, based in Dallas, Texas. In 2007, he returned to his home state and hometown with his wife and opened Tasteful Temptations, which offers catering services, serves as the in-flight vendor for Netjets and most other private jets flying out of Brunswick and St. Simons Island, and also operates the café in the Brunswick Airport. He enjoys Vidalia® onions because, “They’re sweeter and don’t overpower dishes,” he says. He won 2nd place at the 2nd annual Golden Onion in 2013.

    Chef Pano I. Karatassos is executive chef of Kyma in Atlanta, Ga., a member of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. After earning a degree in Hospitality Management at Florida International University, he trained at the renowned Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and worked in prestigious kitchens around the country including three Michelin three-star restaurants: French Laundry in Napa Valley, Calif., Jean-Georges and Le Bernardin both in New York City, N.Y. He started cooking at age 16, working in his father’s restaurants Pano’s & Paul’s, The Fish Market and 103 West. Kyma opened in December 2001 and gained national attention in 2002 when Esquire named it one of the top 20 restaurants in the country. “Vidalia onions give us a different dimension of flavor than regular onions,” he says. “They have good sugar content that gives different preparations that sweetness we need in many of our dishes at Kyma. They have great texture, color, earthiness and sweetness.”

    Chef David Larkworthy, executive chef and founder of Five Seasons Brewing Company in Atlanta, Ga., has had a lifelong love of food: His first word was apple, he picked and sold blackberries at age eight, and began working at his father’s restaurant The Mushroom in Westport, Conn., when he was 12. After earning a marketing degree from Florida State University, he returned to Atlanta and, at age 23, opened his first restaurant, an Italian bistro, The Gourmet Grill. He later went to work for The Buckhead Life Group at Pano’s and Paul’s. In 2001, he opened the Five Seasons Brewing Company in Sandy Springs to feature local handcrafted beer and food served side-by-side; the company now boasts three Atlanta-area locations. Larkworthy, who works with local farmers and believes strongly in local, organic and sustainable foods, says that he likes “everything” about Vidalia® onions. “They are a wonderful ingredient. Georgia is a more special place because of them. They’re very versatile and a pleasure to work with.”

    Chef Roberto Leoci, executive chef and owner of Leoci’s Trattoria in Savannah, Ga., was named a Georgia Grown Executive Chef in 2014. He developed a passion for food at an early age while spending summers in Sicily with his family. His culinary career began as he worked and studied in Florence, Italy, and continued after crossing the Atlantic to work at The Ritz-Carlton on Key Biscayne, Fla. He then worked as a private chef for several years. After moving to Savannah to help open Bull Street Chophouse, in late 2009 he opened Leoci’s Trattoria. The menu is influenced by his boyhood in Bari, on the heel of the Italian boot. With a family of shopkeepers, cheese mongers and cooks, Chef Leoci has a firm background in the region’s foodways. Among his many accolades, Leoci awarded 3rd place at the 2nd annual Golden Onion in 2013. “Vidalia onions are definitely the best in the world!” he says. “They have a unique delicious and sweet flavor that reminds me of my second favorite, cipollinis from Italy.”

    Chef Danny Mellman is executive chef and owner of Harvest on Main and Blue Ridge Grocery in Blue Ridge, Ga., where his goal is to showcase local, sustainable products. The self-taught culinarian honed his skills in England, France and Italy. After returning to the states, he became executive chef of The Mad Batter in Cape May, N.J. In 1988, he headed south to Captiva Island where he opened The Greenhouse Grill, spending 25 years in Florida before joining the ranks of “half-backs” settling in north Georgia with his partner (writer and farm director) Michelle Moran. He has been featured in the “Great Chefs of the South” TV series. Certification from the American Culinary Federation, entrepreneurial endeavors, and recent writing assignments in Taiwan, Australia, Greece and Spain have additionally broadened Mellman’s knowledge and standing as a culinary professional. “I love the natural sweetness of a Vidalia onion,” he says. “They brown so quickly on the griddle and their shape makes for beautiful, uniform rings.”

    Chef Austin Rocconi is the executive chef for Le Vigne Restaurant at Montaluce in Dahlonega, Ga. A native of southern Mississippi, he graduated from the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, Calif. After a short time at The Jonathan Club Santa Monica, Calif., he returned south and worked in kitchens at Kyma, BLT Steak and Canoe in Atlanta before accepting his current position. Rocconi favors locally-sourced cuisine and hyper-seasonal ingredients; at Le Vigne he incorporates ingredients from the restaurant's garden as well as from regional purveyors. “Onions play one of the most important and yet modest roles in nearly all recipes in any aspect of the culinary world,” he says. “They provide depth, complexity, flavor development and enhancement for the most traditional chef to the dangerously avant-garde. I consider it a blessing to live in Georgia where I have access to such a nationally sought after product such as the Vidalia onion. The Vidalia onion gives me the chance to support local agriculture as well as show my community just one of the great accomplishments their state has produced. The Vidalia onion season is something I always look forward to and a product I will use as long as I am cooking.” He won 3rd place at the inaugural Golden Onion in 2012.

    Chef Marc Taft, executive chef and owner of Chicken and the Egg in Marietta, Ga., was named a Georgia Grown Executive Chef in 2014. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and then worked for the restaurant companies Carlson Hospitality and Brinker International. He has served as general manager for The Inn at Evins Mill in middle Tennessee, B.A.N.K Restaurant in Minneapolis, Minn., Domaso Trattoria Moderna in Washington, D.C., and Pacci Ristorante in Atlanta, Ga. Taft has also worked as the concept development director for Al Copeland Investments, where he helped develop Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro, and has held executive chef and corporate chef positions. His experience also includes stints as the director of food and beverage for the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., and director of restaurant operations for the Southeast region of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants where he was responsible for overseeing several restaurants including Area 31 in Miami, Fla., and Central 214 in Dallas, Texas. “I love the versatility of the Vidalia onion,” he says. “The perfect balance of the onion flavor and sweetness make it the perfect complement to any dish but they have a big enough personality to stand alone as the star of the show.”

    Chef Jordan Wakefield is executive chef and owner of the new Smoke Ring in Atlanta, Ga. After his first culinary job at age 14 at a casual Italian restaurant, the Georgia native attended Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta, Ga., where he took a coveted three month externship at the exclusive Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va. He stayed and worked his way up to junior sous chef then returned to Atlanta to work as a lead line cook at Spice Market. The owners of Food 101 hired him as sous chef of Meehan’s Public House Sandy Springs; he was soon promoted to executive chef of the downtown Atlanta location. In 2010, he was invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York. With his wife he is opening Smoke Ring, which will serve his take on “Georgia-Style Barbeque” in Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill community. “At Smoke Ring, we aim to cook only with the freshest ingredients,” he says. “We are a large supporter of Vidalia onions since they are grown right here in Georgia, and we use them daily to produce our popular onion rings. I enjoy cooking with Vidalia onions because they are the freshest and most flavorful onions available. It makes me proud to know that they are a product of my home state, Georgia.”

    Chef Astarita also competed in Golden Onion 2012. Chefs Justice and Leoci also competed in Golden Onion 2013. Chefs Rocconi and Taft join the competition for the third consecutive year.

    About the Golden Onion
    The Golden Onion professional cooking competition challenges 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 www.vidaliaonionfestival.com.

    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 www.vidaliaonionfestival.com.

    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 www.VidaliaOnion.org.

    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 www.garestaurants.org.

    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.

    NOTE: HIGH-RES PHOTOS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST.

    CONTACTS:
    Ingrid M. Varn
    Executive Director, Vidalia Area CVB
    vacvb@bellsouth.net
    912.538.8687

    Hope S. Philbrick
    Freelance Writer & Editor / Golden Onion Judge
    hopesp95@yahoo.com
    404.323.4699

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