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. 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: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South to air nationally on public television stations.
Virginia has cooked Lapin Normandie with Julia Child, prepared lunch for President Clinton, and catered a bowling party for Jane Fonda. She began her culinary career tossing pizzas in college, has since foraged for wild herbs in the Alps, made mustard in Dijon, crushed olives in California, and harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, but it all started in her grandmother's country kitchen.
She is also a regular blogger for FoodNetwork.com, as well as her own popular blog, that was tagged as a favorite by Saveur magazine. Named by the Chicago Tribune as one of "Seven Food Writers You Need to Know," her fans love her knack for giving classic French dishes a down-home comfort feel and reimagining Southern favorites.
A graduate of L'Academie de Cuisine and Ecole de Cuisine LaVarenne, her first job in a professional kitchen was as an apprentice for Nathalie Dupree's TV cooking show on PBS. Willis has subsequently worked on over 1000 TV episodes, as Kitchen Director for Martha Stewart and Bobby Flay, as well as Producer of Epicurious on The Discovery Channel and Home Plate for Turner Studios.
She has been featured in USA Today, Country Living, and House Beautiful as well as Food52 and CNN.com. Her articles have appeared nationally including Southern Living, Food52, CNN, All Recipes, Country Living, Eating Well, Family Fun, and Fine Cooking. She has appeared on Fox and Friends, Martha Stewart Living Television, Paula Deen's Best Dishes, Thrown Down with Bobby Flay, and on Food Network's Chopped.
Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force and the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board. She is a past president of the Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a member of Georgia Organics, Chef's Collaborative, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and Southern Foodways Alliance.
- 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)