2018 Talent


James Briscione & Brooke Parkhurst

James Briscione is a chef, author and Food Network personality. He was the first-ever two-time Chopped champion and is the host of the award-winning Food Network digital series Man Crafted.

Brooke Parkhurst is a novelist, cookbook author, and former host of ABC’s internet and digital cable food series. Together James and Brooke authored the Best Selling Flavor Matrix (HMH ’18). They will soon open their first restaurant inspired by their home on the Gulf Coast and travels through Italy. Angelena’s Ristorante Italiano is set to open in Fall of 2018 in Pensacola, FL.


Ford Fry

Ford Fry’s culinary inspirations cover many years and much of the country: from eating out with his family as a child in Texas, to studying at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, to spending time as a fine dining chef in Florida, Colorado and California—and eventually as a corporate chef in Atlanta. Although the corporate chef position didn’t stick, Fry’s love for Atlanta stuck with him and it has proved a recipe for success so far. Fry and his restaurants have been included in numerous national and local publications, such as Bon Appétit, Condé Nast Traveler, Chicago Tribune, Cooking Light, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Esquire, Food & Wine, Garden & Gun, Sky, Southern Living and the Washington Post.

Fry’s culinary vision always begins with ingredients and dishes that are central to the Atlanta community and Southeastern region. He sources local ingredients not only because they taste better but because it allows him to partner closely with suppliers and honor local harvests. He then utilizes classical European techniques in his preparation, which results in dishes that are approachable and uncomplicated yet entirely new to his guests.


Laura Bento

Laura Bento was born and raised just outside of Savannah, Georgia. She attended college at Florida State University and pursued a career in marketing and sales for 10 years before she decided to scratch the entrepreneurship itch. Laura started her first business in 2013 in Mountain Brook, Alabama, as a business consultant specializing in strategic sales and marketing. Laura has always been a woman in business who doesn’t mind standing in the gaps and teaching others how to do the same. So, when she read an article in The New York Times in June of 2014 written about the South, she saw a big gap in the magazine industry. She quickly went to work building a business plan for Good Grit Magazine.

Laura has grown accustomed to being called “crazy.” She has heard more times than she can count that “the magazine industry is dying,” or “paper is going away,” and “digital is taking over.” And while that may be true, since the inaugural issue in July of 2015, Good Grit has grown to 300,000 readers, is circulated in 17 states, and is sold in more than 2,500 retailers.


Andy Chapman

Eat Y’all (EatYall.com) was founded in 2012 thru a year-long series of Chef’s Table dinners hosted by Andy and Marianna Chapman, Mississippians who had a heaping plate of food media opportunity shoved in front of them in 2009 when Andy’s spontaneously created Twitter account @eatjxn turned into a wildly successful food concierge service called Eat Jackson (EatJackson.com), based in their home state’s capitol city of Jackson.

Today, this husband and wife team operates Eat Y'all, where they connect chefs and discerning eaters to the most inspiring Southern grown and made products using events, digital media and personal relationships. They also own and operate The Mississippi List (MississippiList.com) that touts the best places to eat, stay and play across their home state.


Chef Brody Olive from The Perdido Beach Resort

The Perdido Beach Resort is proud to welcome Chef Brody Olive as the new Executive Chef to lead our culinary team encompassing all food and beverage operations throughout the hotel’s four restaurants and multiple banquet facilities. Chef Olive brings to the resort an impressive background of training and accomplishments. He attended Johnson and Wales University, where he learned the culinary fundamentals. He began his career at Ocean Restaurant in Birmingham as the Sous Chef, studying under the owner and well known Chef George Reis. Ocean achieved many honors during Brody's tenure, including the AAA Four Diamond Award and Five Stars by Birmingham News. Brody then assisted with the opening of Ocean's sister restaurant, 26, known for its funky South Beach atmosphere and eclectic menu.

Prior to joining Voyagers at Perdido Beach Resort, Chef Olive had built a great reputation for his development of creative offerings at some of the premier restaurant venues in the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores area. He initially moved to the Gulf Coast to open Villaggio Grille, where he was Executive Chef and General Manager. At Villaggio Grille, he conceptualized a menu offering "new and old world cookery" with Italian, Mediterranean and low country fusion. In 2011, Brody opened Elli Bistro Zen Restaurant in Orange Beach as Executive Chef and General Manager, bringing a menu of Pacific Rim flavors to Gulf Seafood before moving to The Beach Club where he served as Executive Chef.


Rouses Chef Neil “Nino” Thibodaux

Chef Nino was born in Franklin, Louisiana, but his his food home is Italy. A stint in the Air Force as a F-15 jet mechanic included a month at a remote base near Cagliari in Sardinia. After earning a Bachelor of Arts from Trinity College in Jacksonville, Florida, and an Honorary Doctorate from Victory Baptist College in North Augusta, South Carolina, Nino returned to Italy, where he lived for 13 years. When Nino moved back to the United States, he settled in Houma, Louisiana, and started teaching private cooking classes. Inspired by his time in Italy, he then launched the Friends of Italy Culinary Institute. Nino has taught monthly cooking classes and done cooking demonstrations and events for Rouses Markets for over 10 years. Chef Nino was awarded by the American Culinary Federation 'Best Chefs of Louisiana 2015'. He has a low salt, mild, Cajun seasoning blend called Adrenaline Seasoning, which is available at all Rouses Markets in Louisiana, Mississippi and Lower Alabama. ​


Alyson Sheppard

Alyson Sheppard is the editor in chief and publisher of Edible Lower Alabama, the only magazine dedicated to food and drink from Orange Beach to Birmingham. She lives in Gulf Shores.


Jim Smith

Jim Smith is the Executive Chef of the State of Alabama and Chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission. As the state chef, he has placed an emphasis on using the best local ingredients and has made strides to encourage support of local farmers and Alabama fishers. He uses his position as ambassador of food, to promote farmer’s markets and events that support Alabama food products. Smith is not only responsible for the daily preparation of food for the First Family, but he is also responsible for planning and preparing menus for events sponsored by the state.

In 2011 he was crowned the King of American Seafood by winning The Great American Seafood-Cook-Off and became the national spokesperson for Alabama Seafood, American Sustainable Seafood, Gulf Seafood and the NOAA. As the winner he traveled the country educating the Americans about the benefits of sustainable seafood. As Chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, Chef Smith proudly participates in the great work being done to promote Alabama Seafood. Chef Smith is also a Chef Advocate for Wild American Shrimp. Chef Smith represented himself and Alabama in the acclaimed Bravo television cooking competition show, Top Chef. With a top ten finish and great fan support he is proud of his competitive efforts and has high hopes for the future.


Pete Blohme AKA "Panini Pete"

Panini Pete began working in restaurants at the age of fourteen while growing up in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The business immediately got into his “blood” and the journey began. Fortunately an early job working at the Fifteen Street Fisheries for industry legend Mike Hurst helped pave the way to bigger opportunities. “He introduced me to the idea of making a professional career of the restaurant industry, and suggested I attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park NY.” Mike Hurst would be a frequent counselor & mentor over the next 20 years.

Pete has been Owner and Chef of Panini Pete’s Café since its inception in 2006! Pete’s commitment to “Put Real Food in his Food” and his Never Met a Stranger approach to Hospitality has launched this concept to new heights, currently operating 5 units in 3 states. Pete has also opened Sunset Pointe in Fairhope, Alabama. Sunset Pointe is an award-winning waterfront seafood restaurant with farm to table local gulf seafood, local produce, and a mixology bar. It was voted one of Alabama’s hottest new restaurants shortly after opening in 2015.

Pete has made appearances on 8 Different Food Network Programs and 4 Food Network Web Videos including the following: Diners Drive-ins & Dives, the “Best Of” Diners Drive-ins & Dives, Guy’s Big Bite, Guys Grocery Games, & Guest Judge on Food Truck Wars with Tyler Florence! Pete has also performed in over 30 live Food Shows while touring with the Guy Fieri Road Show.


Chef Amy Sins

Amy Sins is a mischievous host and fanatical food explorer in constant motion. Chasing down rogue chickens, spinning stories about Louisiana food traditions to eager diners, fishing for supper, traveling to far-off places, dreaming up dishes with Cajun and Creole flair – all part of Amy’s unpredictable, almost unbelievable day-to-day adventures bouncing around South Louisiana (and the globe).

Born and raised in nearby Gonzales, Louisiana (the Jambalaya Capital of the World and home of the best damn brown jambalaya around), Amy didn’t follow the typical path of a New Orleans chef. No years in culinary school or humble kitchen stints at marquee restaurants. She was wired for cooking and entertaining as a kid, watching her parents’ elaborate southern dinner parties unfold. Amy walked away from a 20-year career in sales and bootstrapped her way into building Langlois from scratch in 2012 — first as an interactive dining/ open kitchen restaurant in the Marigny, and as the traveling culinary entertainment group it is today. Langlois is a tribute to her roots, combining Amy’s pure love of dinner party style entertaining and Louisiana culture with authentic New Orleans culinary experiences.


Kendall Collins Gensler

Kendall Collins Gensler is a seasoned culinary professional, who received a diploma from the famous Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School and attended Johnson and Wales University for continuing culinary education. Gensler is a native New Orleanian, who has worked in the culinary industry over the past twenty years.

As an ambassador of the “culinary current”, Gensler founded Culinary Concierge Magazine in 2000. In 2005, Culinary Concierge Magazine was named as a finalist for an Award of Excellence by The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).

Currently, Kendall works primarily as a Food Stylist and Culinary Consultant across the Southeast.


Greg Peterson

Greg Peterson is a 30-year veteran of the news business and anchors NBC15 News at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. His father was a broadcasting pioneer, working for more than three decades as a TV meteorologist, so Greg has been wandering the halls of television stations since he was old enough to walk.

During his award winning career, Greg has reported from locations all across the country, from natural disasters to the White House. He has ridden a bull in the rodeo, a thoroughbred race horse from the gate and is one of the few people who has flown with both the Navy's Blue Angels, and the Air Force Thunderbirds.

Greg and his wife Jill are owner/operators of Trattoria Pizza & Italian in Spanish Fort. Voted best pizza in South Alabama, Baldwin County, and Best Kept Restaurant Secret in Baldwin County. Their success is also moving to OWA, where they will open another Trattoria in mid summer.


Susan Benton

Susan Benton is a South Walton based writer, artist, and founder of 30Aeats.com. Susan has contributed to and worked with numerous national and regional in print and digital platforms that include Parade, The Daily Meal, Cooking Light, The Local Palate, and VIE Magazine to name a few. Benton was recognized in Lodge Cast Iron Nation: Cooking from Coast to Coast with other noteworthy chefs and individuals, and was awarded Top 100 Gulf Coast Seafood Blogger by The Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation.


Donny Rouse

Donny Rouse grew up in the grocery business founded by his grandfather, Anthony J. Rouse, Sr.. For years he worked in his family’s stores after class, and on weekends and holidays. Following his graduation from the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, Donny stepped into a management role at Rouses, working side by side with his father, Donald, and uncle, Tommy. As Rouses real estate specialist, Donny was called upon to help plan Rouses’ acquisition of A&P’s Southern Division, which doubled the company’s size overnight, and to oversee the company’s purchase of stores and shopping centers throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Lower Alabama.

Since becoming Managing Partner in late 2010, Donny has focused on increasing his company’s fresh, organic and gourmet offerings while spearheaded new developments, including the company’s first locations in downtown New Orleans, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Denham Springs, Ponchatoula and Mobile, Alabama. Under Donny’s direction, Rouses recently acquired LeBlanc’s Food Stores, which included nine locations in Baton Rouge and the surrounding area. Rouses is now one of the largest independent grocers in the United States. It has repeatedly been voted “Best Supermarket” and “Best Place to Work,” by local, regional and national publications and organizations. In 2016, Donny assumed his new role as CEO of his family’s 58-year-old company. He and his wife, Kara, have two daughters and a son. He is a licensed pilot and avid hunter and fisherman.