2012 Challenge Judges

When Laurie Hook learned that she had family roots in wine making, her interest was sparked. “I found out that my family had owned a Chateau (Chateau Olivier) in France before the revolution. I started to read about wine and to taste wine and then discovered you could get a degree in wine making. 

It seemed to really pull together my love of history, science, creativity, and connection to the earth. I love that winemaking has such a long history – the Mesopotamians were making wine in 6,000 BC. After that, for the past 8,000 years, we’ve been learning to make it better. That’s what we are still doing today.”
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G. Garvin, Chef, TV Host and Cookbook Author

Acclaimed chef, cookbook author and TV host Gerry Garvin (aka G. Garvin) is most widely known for his television series, Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin, which ran for seven seasons on TV One. The show’s increasing popularity earned the talented artist a second series on the same network entitled G. Garvin: The Road Tour, which premiered in 2007. Garvin also appeared in a Cooking Channel special, Georgia Roadtrip with G. Garvin.

He is America’s most down-to-earth chef, and his claim to fame is showing everyday cooks how to keep it simple with a Southern twist.

Garvin is also a notable author. His cookbooks include, Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin, Make it Super Simple with G. Garvin, Dining In and Answers to a Young Culinarian. He is currently working on The Sandwich Bible and Live Love Eat and Prayer.

CHEF THOMAS DRITSAS has served as Corporate Executive Chef for the Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group since October of 2003, and oversees the day-to-day culinary operations for all Del Frisco’s Double Eagle and Sullivan’s Steakhouses. Prior to this position, Thomas joined on with the Sullivan’s Steakhouse Brand in 1999, where he served in various culinary capacities and
was part of new opening teams. From 2003 to 2006, Thomas also served as Corporate Executive Chef for Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc., during
which time he oversaw the daily culinary operations for all brands under the Lone Star umbrella. Before joining Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc., Thomas assisted in the opening of numerous independent restaurants and owned and operated his own restaurant. He has worked for the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group in Atlanta in the creation and implementation of some of their various restaurant concepts. Chef Dritsas graduated from the Culinary Institute of America with an AOS in Culinary Arts in 1993.
Director of Beverage Strategy, Ruth’s Hospitality Group, Inc. 

Helen Mackey, DWS is a credentialed wine and spirits professional with over a decade in the alcohol beverage industry. Her unique background spans wine buying, wine and spirits education, brand marketing, innovation and new product development. She is also a WSET Diploma holder, an instructor for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and a leading lecturer on global wines, winemaking, viticulture, spirits and the business of wine and spirits.

Helen leads the beverage strategy for all Ruth’s Hospitality Group brands, including the strategic planning, direction and deployment of beverage strategic initiatives. When not working or checking out beverage and food trends, she spends time with her husband, Derek; dog, Vegas; and adorable 4- and 5-year-old sons, who love to play with trucks, trains, cars, robots and any dinosaur they can find.

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