Chef Hilary White Awarded Golden Onion




Twelve Georgia Chefs Wow at Inaugural Vidalia® Onion Professional Cooking Competition;

Chef Hilary White Awarded Champion Trophy


Vidalia, Georgia, USA (April 23, 2012) — Despite unforeseen challenges including a worktable near-collapse and power outages, the 12 chefs from across the state of Georgia who competed during the inaugural Golden Onion professional cooking competition on Sunday, April 22, 2012, in Vidalia, Ga., impressed judges with their creative, high-quality and sophisticated dishes showcasing the famous Vidalia® onion, Georgia’s official state vegetable.

The inaugural Golden Onion, which served as the official kick-off to the 35th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival, offered a new platform for competitors to display their skills and creativity, as each chef had just one hour to prepare and present a recipe featuring Vidalia® onions.

From the mountains to the coast, fine dining to casual eateries, new business ventures to long-standing community mainstays, the roster of 12 chef competitors represented a cross-section of Georgia restaurants and cuisine. But only one could take home the Golden Onion.

Top honors were awarded to Chef Hilary White, owner and executive chef of The Hil On the Hill: A Restaurant at Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., for her recipe “Caramelized Vidalia® Onion Fritter, Serenbe Farm Vegetable Slaw and Mustard Vinaigrette.”

“It was a fun competition, a great opportunity to see and compete with fellow chefs,” said Chef White, who admitted this was her first time participating in a professional cooking competition. “I’m honored with the win, especially considering the chefs and element of the competition.” She says that her recipe was inspired by Serenbe Farm and her “love for Vidalia onions.”

Second place winner Chef Justin Keith, executive chef at Food 101 in Sandy Springs, Ga., prepared his recipe “Vidalia® Onion and Smoked Bacon Au Gratin.” Chef Keith, who grew up not far from Vidalia, in Jesup, Ga., says he “learned to cook with the wonderful flavors of Vidalia onions from a very young age. Coming in second place from a field of such great chefs in this competition is an honor for me and it really makes things come full circle.”

Third place winner Chef Austin Rocconi, executive chef for Le Vigne Restaurant at Montaluce in Dahlonega, Ga., was recognized for his recipe “Pan Roasted Rabbit Loin with Burnt Onion Stock, Vidalia® Onion Soubise Foam and Celeriac Succotash.”

“To have this much talent come into our area and compete using our Vidalia onions as the main ingredient in their dishes is very good for our community and for our industry,” said Bob Stafford, director of the Vidalia® Onion Business Council and Vidalia® Onion Hall of Fame inductee.

“I was very impressed with the caliber of chefs participating in this inaugural event,” said event judge Holly Chute, executive chef of the Georgia Governor’s Mansion. “The judging was very difficult as there were many outstanding and unique dishes. It was great to see the different approaches to the use of all parts of the onion. I look forward to next year.”

“The competitors made it tough on the judges,” said Hope S. Philbrick, Atlanta-based freelance writer and editor who conceived of and helped launch the Golden Onion competition. “The score margins were razor thin. All the chefs who did not win can feel justified considering themselves as having come in fourth place. I hope to see all these dishes on the menus at their restaurants.”

Dishes were judged on the basis of taste, presentation and creativity. Failure to feature the flavor of Vidalia® onions or making last-minute changes to the recipe that was submitted during the application process would have reduced a chef’s final score. Judging was blind.

As First Place Champion, Chef Hilary White was awarded the Golden Onion trophy, an exclusive honor to hold for one year. The trophy, designed by Georgia artist Melissa Harris, must be surrendered the following year to the next winner. Chef White also received a cash prize of $500. As second place winner Chef Justin Keith received $250; third place winner Chef Austin Rocconi received $100. All winners will also receive commemorative plaques.

The Golden Onion competition was presented by the Vidalia Onion Festival Committee in cooperation with the Vidalia® Onion Committee, Georgia Department of Economic Development, and the Georgia Restaurant Association.

About the Vidalia Onion Festival

Celebrating its 35th year in 2012, the Vidalia Onion Festival will be held April 26-29 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, street dance, car show, the Kiwanis Onion Run, the Vidalia Onion Festival Rodeo, and the Famous onion eating contest. Come to Vidalia to experience the “whole onion.” For more information, visit



Ingrid M. Varn

Executive Director, Vidalia Area CVB



Kelly Hornbuckle

Director of Marketing,

Georgia Restaurant Association


Stefanie Paupeck
Marketing & Communications Specialist,

Georgia Department of Economic Development



Hope S. Philbrick

Freelance Writer & Editor / Golden Onion Judge