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, FoodNetwork.com, 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.
- Press Release for Lighten Up Y'all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome (pdf)
- Lighten up, y'all book cover (pdf)
- Basic to Brilliant, Y'all book cover (pdf)
- Bon Appétit, Y'all book cover (jpg)
- Okra - book cover (pdf)
- Grits - book cover (pdf)
- Virginia Willis portrait (pdf) - photo credit - Angie Mosier
- Virginia Willis talent profile(pdf)