The annual Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival is a quintessentially Southern, one-of-a-kind tradition celebrating one of Georgia’s most-beloved dishes: shrimp and grits. This year, we’re raising the bar, and taking the cooking competition state-wide. Chefs from top restaurants around the state will battle it out in a professional cooking competition for the title of “Georgia’s Best Shrimp & Grits.”
Thank you to everyone who voted for your favorite regional qualifier. Based on your votes, we’re thrilled to announce the finalists who competed in the professional cooking competition at the Festival in the Southern Living Pavilion.
Professional Cooking Competition Finalists
Historic High Country
Northeast Georgia Mountains
Georgia’s Best Shrimp & Grits
Congratulations to this year’s professional cooking competition winners – you truly are Georgia’s Best!
1st Place: West Egg Cafe
As winner of the 2016 Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival’s professional cooking competition, West Egg Cafe is the recipient of $2,000 cash, bragging rights of Georgia’s Best Shrimp & Grits, and they’ll have the opportunity to cook their winning dish for Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.
2nd Place: The National
3rd Place: Blackwater Grill
Professional Cooking Competition Judges
Henna Bakshi is the host and producer of digital cooking series, “Around the World in $40” on HLN, and a multimedia journalist at CNN. She also created University of North Florida’s first HD cooking show, “The Skillet,” with her now husband.
Henna’s love of food can be traced back to her upbringing in India, where she describes her New Delhi home to be scented with spices, which forever carried a welcoming aroma of tea. Her journey to Atlanta, where she now lives, taught her to blend her favorite flavors from both India and the US. Her rich cultural background influences her ever-evolving palette today. She is an avid supporter of local farmers communities, recently publishing her recipe for Sweet Potato Burgers in the Atlanta Community Farmers Market Cookbook.
In her food, Henna looks for a story–the story of the dish’s locality told with its assortment of fresh ingredients, and then there is the story of the chef, intricately folded into the dish with decisions of creative and bold flavors. These edible stories then give the dish character, which is Henna’s favorite part.
When she is not cooking or filming, Henna enjoys hiking the North Georgia mountains and spending time with her family, usually all over a cup of tea.
Jennifer Hill Booker is a Le Cordon Blue-certified chef, cookbook author, reality TV personality, culinary educator, business owner, and GA Grown Executive Chef for the GA Department of Tourism and Travel. She discovered her passion for food early in life. As a little girl cooking beside her mother, grandmother and aunts she learned that through food she could touch people’s hearts and bring smiles of happiness.
She is a member of James Beard Foundation, the Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, the Georgia Restaurant Association, Slow Foods, and Georgia Organics. Chef Jennifer contributes original recipes to such publications as Garden & Gun, Atlanta Magazine, Essence Magazine, Jezebel, Southern Seasons, Urban Socialites and Basil Magazine.
Chef Jennifer spends her free time in her kitchen, garden, or the local farmer’s market. She currently resides in Lilburn, Georgia with her two daughters Jenelle and Regine along with their KorgieJack, Pudge.
Rebecca Lang is a food writer, cooking instructor, television personality, and a ninth-generation Southerner. Born and raised in South Georgia, she is the author of The Southern Vegetable Book (Oxmoor House, April 2016) and Fried Chicken (Ten Speed Press, May 2015). Her other books include Around the Southern Table (Oxmoor House, Oct 2012), Quick-Fix Southern (Andrews McMeel, March 2011), Mary Mac’s Tea Room (Looking Glass Books, 2005), and Southern Entertaining for a New Generation (Cumberland House, 2004).
She has appeared on Fox & Friends Weekend, multiple segments on QVC, WGN America’s Midday News, and numerous regional and local networks. Rebecca and her cooking have been featured in more than 50 nationally televised Southern Living food segments and in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, Wine Enthusiast, FoxNews.com, The Daily Meal, Glamour and Fitness magazines. She serves as a contributing editor for Southern Living, teaches cooking classes across America, and writes a blog that has been featured on the James Beard Foundation Blog, Delights and Prejudices, and noted in Food News Journal’s Best of the Blogs. Her writing has appeared in many publications including Southern Living, FoodNetwork.com, Disney’s Family Fun, Taste of the South, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Flavors magazine, and Edible Atlanta.
She resides in Athens, Georgia, with her husband, Kevin and their children, Camden and Adair.