Atlanta Chefs Sweep Vidalia's Golden Onion Competition
In the heart of southern Georgia’s Vidalia onion country and days after the official release of this year’s crop, lead chefs from across the state competed for the Golden Onion trophy.
The premiere culinary event of the 37th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival, Golden Onion offers a platform for competitors to display their skills and creativity, and each chef had just one hour to prepare and present a recipe featuring Vidalia onions — Georgia’s official state vegetable.
From the mountains to the islands, fine dining to casual eateries, new business ventures to long-standing community mainstays, the roster of chef competitors represented a cross-section of Georgia restaurants and cuisine. But only one could take home the Golden Onion.
For the first time in Golden Onion event history, chefs from Atlanta swept the top three awards. Chef David Larkworthy, executive chef and founder of 5 Seasons Brewing Company, was named First Place Champion. He prepared Vidalia onion Ossabaw pork burgers on sweet potato buns with Vidalia and sundried tomato katsup, spring onion and parsley salad and Vidalia onion blossom “fries.”
Shortly after being handed the trophy, he said, “Vidalia onions are a wonderful ingredient — they’re versatile, sweet and approachable. Georgia is a more special place because of them.” (Larkworthy is pictured on the right below with his daughter, Riley, and Vidalia Onion Sheriff Bob Stafford.)
Second place was awarded to Chef Pano I. Karatassos, executive chef of Kyma, for his Vidalia onion-studded halibut, which had a Vidalia onion crust and was slow-poached in Vidalia onion-infused olive oil and accompanied by Vidalia onion stew and a Vidalia onion salad.
Third place was awarded to Chef Costanzo Astarita, executive chef at Baraonda Ristorante & Bar, for his Georgia shrimp Vidalia onion remoulade, chickpea Vidalia pancake, Vidalia onion fennel slaw and Vidalia onion ginger oil.
Judges also singled out competitor Chef Austin Rocconi, executive chef for Le Vigne Restaurant at Montaluce in Dahlonega, for his Vidalia onion tofu, an element of his “Vidalia onion Variations” entry.
“The level of competition was tough,” says James Beard Award-winning Chef Linton Hopkins, executive chef and owner of several celebrated Atlanta enterprises including Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House and H&F Bread Co. “It was clear to me that all competitors put careful thought into their dishes. I loved how their skillful creativity demonstrated that Vidalia onions are so versatile.”
Says Ingrid Varn, executive director of the Vidalia Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, “To have our state’s top culinary talent come into our area and compete using our Vidalia onions as the main ingredient in their dishes is such an honor for our community as well as for the Vidalia onion industry.” Golden Onion is my personal favorite aspect of the Vidalia Onion Festival — and I know that I’m not the only person who feels that way.”
As First Place Champion, Chef David Larkworthy was awarded the Golden Onion trophy, an exclusive honor to hold for one year. Designed and produced by Georgia artist Melissa Harris in 2012, the trophy must be surrendered the following year to the next winner. Chef Larkworthy also received a cash prize of $500.
To find out more about Vidalia, Georgia, and Vidalia onions, check out our Travel story A Sweet Time to Visit South Georgia.