2 Atlanta food writers win James Beard awards

Two Atlanta writers went home with big honors at the 2016 James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards, held Tuesday in New York.

Wendell Brock, a food and features writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, won an award for best profile for his article “Christiane Lauterbach: The Woman Who Ate Atlanta,” written for the Bitter Southerner, while Atlanta chef and cookbook author Virginia Willis won the Focus on Health Award in the cookbook category for her book “Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome.”

Brock and Willis, both first-time winners, shared their excitement over being honored.

Willis said she was particularly pleased that a Southern cookbook was recognized in a health category.

“I’m thrilled and honored to be recognized by my peers, and I’m excited that people are appreciative of this alternative view of Southern cooking,” Willis said. “My mission, and what I believe in, is that Southern food can be healthy, and that it can be good and good for you — Southern food is often more than what people think.”

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Brock noted how far he’d come.

“I am so happy and thrilled,” he said. “I wrote my first food story for the AJC. It was on Apalachicola oysters. I have been writing about food on and off for 20 years, and it means the world to have my work acknowledged by my peers. For a kid who grew up on a peanut farm in South Georgia, this is huge. Christiane Lauterbach is an Atlanta treasure, and it was a gift to tell her story.”

Lauterbach, who resides in Atlanta and publishes the monthly dining newsletter Knife & Fork, said being the subject of an award-winning story was “a bit weird, because my entire career has been based on creeping in the shadows.”

Yet, Lauterbach said, she was “thrilled” with Brock’s award.

“It would not have been as good a piece if Wendell had not known me as a person and put so much energy into following me around,” she said.

Miller Union chef Steven Satterfield’s first cookbook, “Root to Leaf,” was a finalist in the photography category, but lost out to “Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel” by Heidi Swanson. Satterfield’s book also was nominated for a Julia Child First Book Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

The James Beard Foundation Awards restaurant and chef winners will be announced May 2 at a ceremony in Chicago. There are three Atlanta finalists: Satterfield and Gunshow chef Kevin Gillespie are both up for best chef, Southeast; and Old Fourth Ward spot Staplehouse is up for best new restaurant. In addition, Sean Brock, who opened his first Atlanta restaurant with Minero in Ponce City Market last fall, was named a finalist in the outstanding chef category.

If you're interested in getting a taste of Willis' food, meal kit delivery service PeachDish has added her Smothered & Covered Chicken dish back into their menu offerings in celebration of her win. It's live on their site now, and will be available for delivery from May 2-23.

A complete list of winners of the James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast and Journalism awards is available here.

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