Meet the Judges

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“The Celebrity Chef”: Chef Ben Vaughn, host of Food Network’s “Health Inspectors”, emcee and host of the World Food Championships 2013

Ben Vaughn’s love affair with food began at an early age, cooking in his beloved grandmother’s kitchen. Left to his own devices, Ben developed a strong sense of his own personal tastes, with hefty helping of creativity and imagination. His passion for cooking only grew as time passed, as Ben underwent training in the culinary arts at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale while working nights in some of the best restaurants in the city to gain valuable hands-on training and trade secrets from experienced and skilled chefs. It is safe to say that Ben was hungry for what the food scene had to offer. From his early training, Ben moved on to become chef/partner and restaurateur of a handful of restaurants in Memphis, TN, earning him a James Beard award nomination in 2007. Ben’s move from chef/restaurateur to Food Network host was a natural transition, triggered by his desire to share lessons learned from successes and disappointments over the course of his culinary career and a passion for educating others. While exploring some of the dirtiest kitchens in the nation, Ben was also able to show the humanity and desperate needs of the owners/restaurateurs he encountered and leave them more knowledgeable and equipped to succeed. Daddy, husband, writer, Food Network host, chef, and constant visionary – Ben Vaughn is a multi-faceted man on a constant quest for the next breakthrough in taste. The combination of his years of practical kitchen experience filled with trials and triumphs and his zealous, adventurous spirit are a delicious revelation that even the most discriminating palate will enjoy. 

 

“The Restauranteur”: Jenn Hidinger and her late husband Ryan (previous judge)in spirit

In her role as co-founder of Staplehouse Restaurant, Jennifer Hidinger orchestrates the development and execution of all aspects of the restaurant including the design, operational features and all business management. As co-founder and spokesperson for The Giving Kitchen Initiative (TGK), Hidingeradvises on brand awareness and community involvement while providing a personal account in telling the story of TGK on a local and national platform.  Prior to establishing Staplehouse Restaurant and TGK with her late husband Chef Ryan Hidinger, Jennifer Hidinger served as the Manager of Seed Factory, a prominent children’s boutique in Atlanta, GA, assisting in employee training, scheduling, product buying and floor design.  Hidinger received her Bachelor of Arts & Sciences in Broadcast Communication from Indiana University.

 

“The Politician”: Senator John Albers, Senate District 56

Senator John Albers, a Republican, represents the 56th District, which includes portions of Fulton and Cherokee County.  He serves as chairman of State Institutions and Property and vice chairman of the Public Safety committee.  He is also a member of the Finance and Economic Development committees.  Senator Albers has long been an active member of his community.  His affiliations include the World Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation Board of Directors (past chairman), Hope & Light Foundation Board of Directors, Chamberlin Nursing College Board,  Gilsbar Holdings Board of Directors, EnAble of GA Board of Directors, Sigma Phi Epsilon KY Beta Alumni Board, Republican Party Member (National, Georgia, Fulton & Cherokee), Roswell United Methodist Church Job Networking Industry Guide, Awakening, Heritage Foundation Presidents Club, Scout Leader, National Rifle Association, Georgia Carry, Roswell Area Park (youth sports coach), Roswell Historical Society, Friends of Bullock Hall, Kiwanis, Roswell Rotary, US Air Force Civil Air Patrol and the Roswell Sons of the American Legion. Senator Albers is a fourth generation firefighter serving as a volunteer in Alpharetta and member of the Georgia Firefighters Association. In 2011, Senator Albers was named Legislator of the Year by the Georgia State Firefighters Association and the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs. Senator Albers earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of Louisville.  Albers also graduated from the University of Georgia, Legislative Leadership Institute.   When not attending to state business, Senator Albers is an executive, business owner and entrepreneur.  He and his wife, Kari of 21 years, have two sons: Will and Ryan living in Roswell and are members of Roswell United Methodist Church.

“The DJ” Debra  X107 Radio DJ and Music Aficionado

I probably like music more than anything else in the world including tamales and that’s a lot. I collect Hard Rock Café pint glasses and I find the sound and vibration of a tattoo gun the most comforting thing in the world. Favorite Bands: Arctic Monkeys, Hard Fi, Led Zeppelin, 30STM, The Killers, Oasis, Fitz & the Tantrums, STP, Garbage, The Hives, The Rolling Stones, Muse, Howard Jones, Rodrigo y Gabriela…should I keep going?Favorite Movies: Psycho, Rear Window Favorite TV: American Horror Story, Daria, Sherlock Favorite Atlanta Hangouts: Decatur CD, The Brick Store, Smith’s Olde Bar, Kolo Piercing

“The Celebrity Biker & Chef”:  Big Swole, Chef David Rose:

BIG SWOLE is a celebrity biker/chef who resides in Atlanta, Georgia.  He stars on Bikes & Bites Reality TV show and is the owner and CEO Big Swole Productions, LLC and SWOLE NATION Motor clothing.  BIG SWOLE’s had great success, when he was tapped by Harley Davidson™ to work on the Harley-Davidson Iron Elite™ campaign, highlighting the African-American rider.   BIG SWOLE graduated summa cum laude as a classically trained Le Cordon Bleu chef.  He is proficient in French, Japanese, Jamaican, Asian, New American, and Southern Fusion cuisine. That passion for great food, quality ingredients, camraderie and beautiful bikes, translates into the show and his everyday life.

“The  Actual Judge”: Shawn LaGrua, Fulton County Superior Court Judge

Shawn Ellen LaGrua serves as a Judge of the Superior Court of Fulton County, reelected in 2012.  She is Chair of the Magistrate Committee, VP of the Joint Governance Committee, and serves on the Court’s Executive Committee as well as on the Governor’s and AOC’s Commission on Human Trafficking. Prior to assuming her current position on June 29, 2010, she served as Inspector-General for the Georgia Secretary of State where she created the office’s first comprehensive investigative unit. Judge LaGrua served from 2004- 2007 as Solicitor General for DeKalb County. As Solicitor General she expanded the Domestic Violence Unit; more than doubling the rate of conviction; founded the “Rise Up and Attend” Truancy Initiative and created Georgia’s first Educational Neglect Court.  She has over 20 years of trial experience, including her work as Chief Senior assistant district attorney in DeKalb and Fulton counties, and Chief Assistant in the Tallapoosa Circuit.  Judge LaGrua graduated from the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia and received her Juris Doctorate in law from the Georgia State University College of College of Law.

 “The Food Critic”:  Evan Mah, Atlanta Magazine

Evan Mah is the deputy food editor and wine columnist for Atlanta magazine. Mah is from Memphis, Tennessee but grew up in the chicken-frying, biscuit-baking kitchens of his parents’ restaurants in Mississippi. He earned his bachelors degree from Emory University where he majored in journalism and sociology and served as editor in chief of the campus newspaper, The Emory Wheel. He joined Atlanta magazine as its dining intern in 2012 and came on full time November 2013.

The Judge (Actual):  Wesley Tailor, Fulton County State Court

Judge Wesley B. “Wes” Tailor is one of ten judges serving on your Fulton County State Court. He presides over civil actions of all sizes and misdemeanor cases.  Judge Tailor is experienced and committed to ensuring that all cases coming before him are fairly tried in strict accordance with the law.  Combining a strong legal record in both civil litigation and criminal prosecution with proven state government leadership, Judge Tailor brings a unique set of skills and experiences and a passion for efficient government to Fulton County State Court. Judge Tailor is an Atlanta native, who was born and raised in Fulton County in what is now the City of Sandy Springs. He resides in Fulton with his wife, Jaime L. Theriot, their wonderful son and their two rescue dogs.

 

“The Food Scientist”: Jennifer Magnon, The Classy Critic

The Classy Critic envisioned a place to capture all of the great aspects of the food world from a different perspective.  The beauty and brains behind the operation is a young full breed Filipino American emerging entrepreneur.  Jennifer’s passion for food began as a little girl helping the women of the family prep and concoct authentic Filipino dishes and gathering with family just to get together and eat.  She is a hard working and ambitious spirit with a compassionate heart and a positive personality to match. Some call her ‘socially accepted’ while others see her constantly building her empire in Atlanta.  Born in the Bay Area of California but raised in the southern traditions of Atlanta, Georgia, she is definitely a unique individual with a vision greater than herself.  Her educational background is in Food Science and Technology with a Certificate in Interdisciplinary Leadership & Service from The University of Georgia, which is where the science twist of the brand comes from.  Her passions include positively influencing the younger generation and giving back to those less fortunate.



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