Championship Judges



Erin Dacy

WAAY-TV, ABC Channel 31


Erin Dacy started working in television in 1991 and has either personally covered or anchored every major story in the state of Alabama for 20 years. At WAAY-TV in Huntsville, she is a four-time winner of the Associated Press award for Best News Anchor in Alabama and has been honored by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for excellent work twice. Erin’s nonprofit work includes donations of tens of thousands of dollars and services to dozens of charities, specifically in areas of science, fine arts and families.  She is a passionate Alabama football fan and is the only television journalist in the state to cover Mark Ingram winning the Heisman Trophy in New York City and the University of Alabama winning the National Championship in Pasadena, California, in 2009. She loves to cook for her family and, when not watching Channel 31, watches the Food Network. Being a morning newscast anchor at WAAY-TV, the most frequently asked question she gets is “What time do you go to bed?” and the natural follow up “When do you get up?”  The answer is “Bed at 7:45… Alarm at 2:15.”


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John Currence

City Grocery


John Currence was born and raised in New Orleans, LA to a family that loved to cook and spend time in the kitchen.  His mother’s travels with his father during his childhood brought the dishes of the world to their dinner table. His first cooking job was while working offshore as a deckhand on a tugboat in the Gulf of Mexico.  Currence saw his first kitchen job while in school at UNC where he started washing dishes at Bill Neal’s Crook’s Corner.  An immediate fascination with the business prompted several supplemental jobs (baking bread at an Italian restaurant, butcher shop at a local grocery store, salmon smokehouse, etc) and ultimately led to his return to New Orleans to help a high school friend, Larkin Selman open Gautreau’s.  He moved on to the Brennan family of restaurants to open Bacco before finally settling in Oxford in 1992 and opening City Grocery.  In the time since the City Grocery Restaurant Group has seen a number of openings, including Nacho Mama’s, Kalo’s, Ajax Diner, City Grocery Catering Company, Bouré, Big Bad Breakfast and Snackbar.  He was awarded the James Beard Foundation medal for Best Chef South for 2009 and was the 2008 winner of the Great American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans and the 2009 Charleston Food and Wine Festival’s Iron Chef Challenge.

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John Egerton



John Egerton is the author of Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, In History. He has lived – and eaten – all over the South, and currently resides in Nashville. His articles on food and a variety of other subjects have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. John is one of the region’s greatest chroniclers. His book, Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South, won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Working in the broad field of Southern letters, he has defined a modern understanding of the import of foodways. John is one of the founding cornerstones of the Southern Foodways Alliance.


Linda Carman

Martha White Baking Expert

Linda Carman went to work for Martha White Foods in 1975 where her first assignment was to travel around the south presenting cooking schools, meeting consumers and expanding her knowledge of southern food traditions.  Five years later she became Director of the Martha White Test Kitchen and Consumer Affairs for 15 years.  She is currently the Martha White spokesperson and has compiled three cookbooks.  She has been judging the Cornbread Festival every year since its inception.


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Christy Jordan



Christy Jordan comes from a long line of Southern cooks. The ninth generation Alabamian publishes, her blog dedicated to classic Southern recipes and quick and easy family favorites. Her heart is in preserving the recipes of her heritage and presenting them along with the stories of how they came about and what makes them so special. Her first book, Southern Plate, Classic Comfort Food That Makes Everyone Feel Like Family, was published in October 2010 by William Morrow, and features the recipes she grew up with along with heartwarming stories of family and values that she has come to be known for. Her second book will debut in spring of 2013. She holds a B.S. in Home Economics and also serves at Editor at Large for Southern Living Magazine.  Christy lives in Alabama with her husband, two kids, and an assortment of four legged children.


Elizabeth Taliaferro

Cooking with Paula Deen


Elizabeth Taliaferro, managing editor of Cooking with Paula Deen, first experienced the special connection between food and community at her mother’s Sunday dinners, where friends and family would linger around the table savoring traditional Southern fare. After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in nutrition, Elizabeth worked as a test kitchen professional at Oxmoor House, and then as an assistant editor for Cooking Light magazine, before embarking upon a successful career as an editorial consultant for Cooking Light, Weight Watchers, and Health magazines. As a freelancer, she was selected by Cooking Light as one of the “Top Ten Cooks We Love” among a nationwide pool of food writers for its 10th Anniversary Issue. She then rejoined the staff of Oxmoor House as a Southern Living cookbook editor before, in 2009, finding her current home at Hoffman Media. As managing editor of Cooking with Paula Deen—the popular bimonthly magazine that also produces five special editions yearly—and the Deen Bros Good Cooking newsstand specials, Elizabeth finds that her early days spent watching her mother bake her famous pies continue to serve her quite well.


Jennifer Justus

The Tennessean

Growing up in Georgia with a mother who worked hard outside the kitchen -- but rarely in it -- Jennifer Justus, food culture writer at The Tennessean, cut her teeth at the local meat-and-three on chicken legs and collard greens. But after a tableside education in Southern food, she headed north temporarily for Boston University where she created her own food writing curriculum with courses in both journalism and the masters of gastronomy program, a cultural study of food created by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. Jennifer wrote for the Boston Herald and Boston Globe, among other publications, before coming to Nashville. Prior to journalism, Jennifer worked in qualitative research studying the emotional connections we make with food. While she has spent hours in the kitchens of home cooks exploring the comforts of a pot of chili, for other clients such as Pizza Hut she conducted deprivation studies with teenagers across the country to understand the craving behind a slice of pepperoni pie.


Walter Lambert

WVLT-TV, CBS Channel 8


Walter Lambert is the VOLUNTEER TV chef in Knoxville, Tenn.  He is retired from The University of Tennessee after being associated with them for more than 35 years in a number of positions, ending as Associate Vice President for State and Federal Affairs.  Chef Walter has published nine cookbooks, most recently, “Here's What's Cooking With Chef Walter.” Walter and his late wife, Anne, have served as co-chairs of the Gourmet Gala for The March of Dimes, cooked in the Elegant Dining program for the Knoxville Symphony and served on numerous committees.  He is a veteran judge for the Cornbread Festival.


Donna Florio

Southern Living


Donna Florio is a senior writer at Southern Living Magazine, where she plans and writes stories, and taste-tests all the recipes that appear in the food section. In her 15 years at the magazine, she estimates she has sampled some 75,000 dishes. A native of Charleston, S.C., who now lives in Birmingham, Donna is passionate about Southern food, and is a longtime member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. She admits she’s rarely met a cornbread she didn’t like.


Don Welch 

WTVC-TV, ABC Channel 9

Don Welch was born and grew up in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee.  He moved to Chattanooga, in the 1960s, where he started his media career in radio.  After years with radio, Don decided it was time to move to bigger and better things.  Don entered the fast paced world of television and has worked for all three (3) network affiliates, eventually staying with WTVC, NewsChannel 9.  He started his career as a weatherman with Channel 9, and then became host/producer for “Good Morning, Don” and “Side Roads with Don Welch.”   Don is the only person in Chattanooga to win an Iris Award in Broadcasting, which is comparable to an “Oscar.”  In 1988, he moved to Nashville, TN to work with WTVF-Channel 5, where he was the weekend weatherman and also worked with their midday show, “Talk of the Town.”  He then moved back to Chattanooga in 1989 and continued his broadcasting career with WTVC Channel 9 where he was host/executive producer for “Good Morning Chattanooga” and where he is now the host/producer for the #1 midday show, “This N That.”  Don has been married to Sammie McCoy Welch for 23 years.  He has been a previous judge for the Cornbread Festival.

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