Virginia Willis – the Southern Cooking girl

Touring round the globe with food I meet many influential food writers and celebrity chefs.  Many I have written about in this blog. Virginia Willis I first met in Paris, at the Paris Cookbook Fair.

Virginia Willis

Virginia Willis

Virginia Willis 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. Her first job in a professional kitchen was as an apprentice for Nathalie Dupree’s TV cooking show on PBS. Willis has subsequently produced over 1000 TV episodes, working for Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay, and Epicurious on The Discovery Channel.

She is the author of the acclaimed cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’allRecipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking (Ten Speed Press, 2008). Her latest book, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company (Ten Speed Press, 2011) was rated as one of the top cookbooks of 2011. Virginia was also recently named by the Chicago Tribune as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.”

A graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine and Ecole de Cuisine LaVarenne, she previously honed her attention to detail as the Kitchen Director for Martha Stewart Living Television where she supervised the food segments for the Emmy-award winning television show. Virginia’s wide and varied food career started in Atlanta as an apprentice to Nathalie Dupree. She worked with Dupree on four PBS series and cookbooks, including the James Beard award- winning Comfortable Entertaining. She also spent several years as an editorial assistant with culinary authority Anne Willan on various projects including Cook It Right, an exhaustive tome that documents the various states of “doneness” (and over- and under-“doneness”) of everything from whipped cream to braised pheasant.

She has been featured in USA Today, Country Living, and House Beautiful as well as on Leite’, She is a contributing editor to Southern Living and her writing has been published in Family Funthe Washington Post, and Taste of the South. She has appeared on Martha Stewart Living TelevisionPaula Deen’s Best DishesMad Hungry Television, Real Simple Television, The Weather Channel, and Thrown Down with Bobby Flay. (For her compilation reel see here.) As a nationally recognized culinary professional, her client list includes Calphalon, Char-Broil, The Coca-Cola Company, Fresh Express, Olive Garden, and Whole Foods Market.

Virginia is on 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, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Southern Foodways Alliance, and Women Chefs & Restaurateurs.

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