Georgia Chefs, TV Personalities, Authors & Ag Experts Team Up

for 2nd Annual Professional Cooking Competition Showcasing Vidalia® Onions


Vidalia, Georgia, USA (March 4, 2013) — Chefs from across Georgia will face-off on Sunday, April 14, 2013, for the Second Annual Golden Onion professional cooking competition that kicks-off the 36th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival. This cook-off showcases the Vidalia® onion, Georgia’s most exclusive and renowned agricultural treasure, and also offers a platform for chefs across Georgia to display their skills and creativity.

After winning over the audience at last year’s inaugural Golden Onion, Sonny Dixon will return as event emcee. The popular anchor of Savannah’s WTOC’s innovative broadcast, THE News NOW at 4 PM, plus THE News at Five and THE News at Six won an Emmy for Best Anchor in the Southeast U.S. in 2011. A longtime member of Toastmasters International, Dixon has won numerous awards for public speaking and communication, including Georgia’s Best Anchor/Reporter by the Associated Press in 2005. The Leadership Savannah graduate was elected to five terms in the Georgia House of Representatives, where he held key offices and served on prominent committees before retiring from elected office in 1997. He has also appeared on the CBS Evening News, the CBS Early Show, on CNN, in Newsweek magazine and many major market newspapers. [For more information, visit]

A panel of five judges will taste and score the competition. Dishes will be judged 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%). Judges of Golden Onion 2013 are:

Executive Chef Holly Chute 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 Hilary White, owner of The Hil: A Restaurant at Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., and First Place Champion of Golden Onion 2012. 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. [For more information, visit]

Executive Chef Ahmad Nourzad of Affairs to Remember Caterersin Atlanta. Nourzad’s love of the kitchen and cooking began at an early age in Tehran, Iran, where he was born. He came to Atlanta by way of Vienna, Austria, and Austin, Texas, where he worked in various positions in the food industry. Nourzad has 25 years of experience in all aspects of a working kitchen. He enjoys experimenting with products and favors local and/or organic produce. He is responsible for executing some of Georgia’s most exclusive events, including the opening of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s new International Terminal, the Fernbank Timeless Signature Benefit Gala, and the Buckhead Business Association’s Annual Luncheon and many others. Nourzad is a Georgia Grown Executive Chef in 2013. [For more information, visit]

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 [For more information, visit]

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. Advance tickets cost $10 per person or $15 at the door and include an event recipe booklet. For details visit

About the Vidalia Onion Festival

Celebrating its 36th year in 2013, the Vidalia Onion Festival will be held April 18-21 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, the Vidalia Onion Festival Rodeo, 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 Vidalia® Onion Committee

Because Vidalia® Onions are sweetly unique, farmers were forced to unite and seek legal protection of their crop and its name. Federal Marketing Order No. 955 was established in 1989 to stipulate how and where the crop can be grown and sold. The Vidalia® Onion Committee administers FMO No. 955 and authorizes production research, marketing research and development and marketing promotion programs. This federal protection reinforces Georgia state laws and the Vidalia® trademark. So, you can try to grow a sweet onion elsewhere, but you cannot call it a “Vidalia!” 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



Kelly Hornbuckle

Director of Marketing, Georgia Restaurant Association


Hope S. Philbrick

Freelance Writer & Editor / Golden Onion Judge