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Chef Virginia Willis is the author of Lighten Up, Y'all, Bon Appétit, Y'all and Basic to Brilliant, Y'all, Okra: A Savor the South Cookbook, and Grits by Short Stack Editions. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of "Seven Food Writers You Need to Know." Her legion of fans love her knack for giving classic French cooking a down-home feel and reimagining Southern recipes en Français.

She writes the popular comfort food blog called Down-Home Comfort that celebrates comfort food cooking for Food Network and the Cooking Channel. Her eponymous food blog, tagged as a favorite blog by Saveur magazine, receives rave reviews for her recipes and stories celebrating her Southern heritage and classic French training. She is a contributing editor for Southern Living and her articles have appeared nationally including Food52 and CNN as well as All Recipes, Country Living, Eating Well, Family Fun, and Fine Cooking. As a nationally recognized Southern food and beverage authority she has been featured in the Washington Post and USA Today, and quoted in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree. She was the producer of Epicurious on the Discover Channel and Home Plate for Turner Studios. In front of the camera, Virginia has appeared on Food Network's Chopped, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, Paula Deen's Best Dishes, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in recipe development, content creation, culinary editorial services, culinary video production, spokesperson representation, and media training. Recipe development clients include Georgia Pecan Commission, Roland Foods, Uncle Ben's Rice, Sodexo, Preserving Place, and Whole Foods Market. Her recipe for Sweet Onion Confit won Best of Georgia in 2014. Video content and media training services clients include CharBroil Grills, Roland Foods, The Lisa Ekus Group, and the Ritz Carlton.

She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Chef's Collaborative, Les Dames d'Escoffier, Georgia Organics, and the Southern Foodways Alliance. 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 Atlanta Community Farmer's Market Advisory Board. She participates in Chef's Move to Schools and is also part of the No Kid Hungry Blogger Program for Share our Strength.

Save the Flavors: Easy Summer Ratatouille

ratatouilleA recent evening’s garden harvest rewarded me with the ingredients for a vibrant, tasty, and easy summer ratatouille — as well as the realization that the garden has suffered a bit from all of our recent travel. Much of the broccoli is flowering and the collard green leaves have grown large and tough. The chili peppers have had a bit too much competition with the weeds, yet there are a couple of scraggly volunteer cherry tomato plants that will likely continue to perpetuate until the end of time. The summer squash are doing sub-par, which thankfully means they are producing amounts that we can keep up with! I do get extreme garden guilt when I see our little patch choked with weeds. As a cook, there’s nothing more satisfying to me than harvesting from the garden and walking immediately into the kitchen to prepare it. The vegetables sing and easy summer ratatouille is the perfect way to save the flavors of the season.

One vegetable that’s done rather well despite neglect is eggplant. This year we planted six different varieties of eggplant, including this Little Finger Eggplant, seen above and the purple striped eggplant below. I adore eggplant. At a typical grocery store, shoppers have grown accustomed to finding one or two different types of eggplant: Italian, which is the large smooth, black bell-shaped and sometimes, maybe, depending on the store, there also might be small display of long, skinny violet-hued Asian eggplant. Why is there such a difference of what’s in our gardens and what’s available at a typical grocery store? Click here to read the rest of this recent blog.