Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has made chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunted for truffles in France. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby, has spoken at SXSW, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Aretha Franklin with her cooking -- but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen.

Willis is the author of Lighten Up, Y'all, Bon Appétit, Y'all, Basic to Brilliant, Y'all, Okra, and Grits. Lighten Up, Y'all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome received a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health category and was a finalist for Best American cookbook by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

She is currently in development with WGBH for a series called Secrets of the Southern Table with Chef Virginia Willis: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South to air nationally on public television stations. Virginia has appeared on television Food Network's Chopped, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, Paula Deen's Best Dishes, “In the Kitchen with David” on QVC, CNN International, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

She is an Editor-at-Large for Southern Living and author of the magazine’s popular column “Cooking with Virginia.” The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of "Seven Food Writers You Need to Know." Her eponymous food blog, tagged as a favorite blog by Saveur magazine, receives rave reviews for her recipes and stories celebrating her culinary adventures. Her articles have appeared nationally including Food52, CNN, All Recipes, Country Living, Eating Well, Family Fun, and Fine Cooking. As a nationally recognized Southern food and entertaining authority she has been featured in the Washington Post, and USA Today, Serious Eats,, Tasting Table and quoted in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Virginia is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree. She was the producer of Epicurious on the Discovery Channel. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in culinary television production and script writing, recipe development, content creation, culinary editorial services, brand representation, and public speaking.

She is a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Les Dames d’Escoffier, Georgia Organics, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Southern Foodways Alliance, and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. She participates in Chef's Move to Schools and is a member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force. As an Atlanta chef, she is proud to be on the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board.

On the Blog

Holiday Entertaining Tips: Smoky Cheese Straws

smoky cheese straws Holiday Entertaining should be relaxed, comfortable, and enjoyable for both the hosts and the guests – and that comes with organization and planning ahead, from the guest list to the music to the menu — and everything in between. Not planning ahead and thinking things through makes for a stressed-out host and that’s no fun. Of course, one of the most important elements with holiday entertaining is the menu.

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Peanut Powder Chicken Wings for GameDay

peanut powder chicken wings Go Dawgs! I was in LA earlier this week shooting videos for my new line of meal kits with Chef’d. I had a great time and while I was waiting at the airport I learned that Georgia was ranked #1 in the College Football Playoffs poll. Woo-hoo! Now, being a Dawg fan can be tough. We brace for disappointment, but it seems Coach Smart is turning things around. However, instead of getting ahead of ourselves and thinking about playing Alabama in the SEC championship in December, I think we need to focus on the next game which is the South Carolina gamecocks. So, today, I am sharing with you a great gameday recipe for Peanut Powder Gamecock Chicken Wings.

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Chef’d – Southern Comfort Delivered

chef'd Last week I taught in Tampa and then spent a few days in Florida helping my dear friend Claire move into her new home and do some chores. (I fell in love with pressure washing!) It’s been pretty crazy lately — so it was good to step out of my box and do something different and it felt really good to help my friend. Work has been busy testing recipes for Nomiku and creating, writing, ....

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What’s in Season: Georgia Pecans

pecans I love pecans and it’s pecan season! I grew up in south Georgia, home to pecans, peaches, and peanuts. In south and middle Georgia there are pecan groves as far as the eye can see. The Willson family at Sunnyland Farms recently invited me down to check out their multi-generational farm and write a piece about them. Sunnyland Farms is a 1,760 acre farm in Albany, Georgia.

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