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Hugh Acheson
Top Chef Judge 
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Hugh Acheson
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Winner of Food & Wine’s award for Best Chef, local food advocate, and judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, brings a fresh perspective on how we cook, grow, and shop for food to the table. The founder of Seed Life Skills, Acheson has helped rebuild communities from the ground up, literally, by raising awareness about sustainable farming, the importance of shopping local, and how to create healthier schools and homes. Hugh has reinvented southern cooking and has garnered two James Beard Foundation Awards in the process. 

Hugh’s local food initiatives continue to grow nationally, integrating healthy, sustainable, and local flavors into the menus and concessions of schools, communities, and Live Nation concerts and events.

Encouraging everyone to appreciate the flavors grown in their own backyard, Hugh believes, “Local has impact and impact produces change. Change is the process of making the farming sustainable, and once sustainable, the next step is certified organically grown. Small steps will win this race and those first small steps are about your local sphere." He has worked with Georgia school systems, lobbied congress, and spoke on the matter at the Building a Healthier Future Summit, which was keynoted by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Before he showed everyone how to grow food, he showed them how to cook. Working under established chefs, he learned traditional French wine, cuisine, and etiquette all while developing his now signature style of pure, honest food with a deep knowledge of traditional Southern culture. He is chef and partner Five & Ten and The National in Athens, GA and the Atlanta-based Empire State South. His fifth restaurant, The Florence, opened in Savannah in June 2014.

He has appeared in The New York Times, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, The Wall Street Journal, GQ, Southern Living, and Gourmet. Acheson has won Food & Wine’s award for Best Chef and has earned six James Beard nominations — winning in 2012. Fellow chef Mario Batali chose Acheson for the book Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs.
Acheson’s first cookbook, A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, won the 2012 James Beard Foundation Book Award for American Cooking. He followed A New Turn with Pick a Pickle in 2014 and 2015's The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables, his latest cookbook, which focuses on using seasonal ingredients, farmers markets, and CSAs.

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Speaking Topics
Growing Healthy and Sustainable Citizens

Hugh Acheson believes in bringing life back to basics. Starting in his own back yard, he’s working to revive home economics across the country to help teach today’s youth practical skills like how to can and preserve, sew a button, and balance a checkbook. Additionally, Chef Acheson’s focus on smart dietary choices that include lots of local fruit and veggies is vital to our future generations. His overall vision aims to instill community development along with skill building to yield healthy, productive members of society. Using his own personal and professional experience, Chef Acheson discusses how small steps will help achieve this big goal and encourage stronger, smarter citizens of the world.

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Inside Top Chef

Having made his through the ranks in the kitchen, Hugh Acheson moved on to be a fan-favorite contestant and judge on Bravo’s Top Chef. Currently the host of Top Chef: Battle of Sous Chefs and Bravo’s official Food Blogger, Hugh shares stories from his well-rounded career in the kitchen, his rise to Top Chef, and the full flavor of his talent and passion.

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Leadership Lessons from the Kitchen: Turning Employees into Teammates

At Hugh Acheson’s restaurant 5 &10, there are no managers; every employee takes equal responsibility for customer experience and the restaurant’s success. As the visionary force behind the restaurant, Chef Acheson worked to build a trustworthy team, carefully staffing and training each position to encourage ownership and authenticity. By empowering people and aligning your vision with the wants, aspirations and attitudes of your teammates, you respect them, and they give it back. Emphasizing the importance of teamwork, Chef Acheson explains his unique approach to management and how it can help you.

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Keeping it Local: Sustaining your Community

Hugh Acheson’s mantra is: local first, sustainable second, organic third. He believes that food is the key to improving one’s community and making it sustainable. Chef Acheson advocates that taking small steps like shopping at your area farmer’s market, frequenting independent restaurants, learning to garden, and meeting the people who grow your food will make the world a better place, one community at a time.

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The Art of Southern Cooking: Bringing Culture & Traditions to the Table

A Canadian transplant living in the South, Hugh Acheson has made a conscious effort to immerse himself in all things Southern. Chef Acheson has learned all about the culture, lifestyle, and traditions behind his favorite recipes and values the time-honored history associated with the South and its cuisine.

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Tasty Bytes: Blogging from the Culinary Frontlines

If you can’t stand the heat then stay out of the kitchen. Hugh Acheson knows this better than anyone. As he moved up the Top Chef ranks, from contestant to judge to host, he’s learned a thing or two about what makes a great chef and a functional kitchen. And he’s ready to share it with the rest of us.
The official Food Blogger for Bravo, Acheson dishes out the behind-the-scenes turmoil and success of TV’s most exciting cooking contests. Writing about food, health, and the cultural significance of various dishes, Hugh unwraps more than just a few ingredients on his blog. In this speech, he examines what it takes to become a top chef on TV and at home by using the right foods, and how he brings this message from the table to your tablet.

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Starts at Home: How to Bring Home Ec Into the 21st Century

Houses don’t operate the way they did in the 1950s, so why are we still teaching home ec that way? Young people across the world deserve a curriculum that prepares them for the domestic challenges of the 21st century, and Hugh Acheson can’t wait to show it to you.

Hugh has made a name for himself by re-invigorating the kitchen with fresh, local flavors that impact the community and the dinner table. But food is just the first step. Along with a team of Local Family and Consumer Science professionals, Hugh is developing an interactive multimedia curriculum to meet the needs of modern families. He wants to teach middle schoolers basic life skills, from cooking to banking and home maintenance to health, and give teachers the materials and resources they need to make lessons relevant to today’s students.

To Hugh, an engaged and prepared 20-year old citizen knows how to poach an egg, make salad dressing, sew a button on a shirt, and understand their cell phone contract. It’s this “from-scratch” philosophy that is so valuable to Hugh’s culinary practices and that will produce autonomous, healthy, well-prepared, and responsible citizens. In Starts at Home: How to Bring Home Ec Into the 21st Century, he’ll show you how.

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Books & Other Works
  • The Broad Fork
  • Bravo's Top Chef
    Bravo's Top Chef
  • Pick a Pickle
    Pick a Pickle: 50 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, and Fermented Snacks
  • A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen
“Hugh was a pleasure to work with…very knowledgeable, accommodating, and entertaining. Our members received him very well. I am hoping we will be able to invite Hugh to speak at next year’s conference, and I look forward to exploring ways we can build on his knowledge and enhance the delivery of his content.”
Produce Marketing
“We were impressed with Hugh Acheson's accessibility, focus on our students, easygoing but thoughtful approaches to his cooking, career, and passion for food. He made a tremendously positive impression upon our community. The dining event we held on campus in his honor was one of the most successful community occasions we have held.”
Montgomery Bell Academy
“Hugh is one of the smartest and best cooks I know. I would happily eat his food every day.”
Chef Scott Peacock
“Hugh Acheson is an eloquent, intellectual spirit who cares deeply for food and its impact on a community.”
Chef Frank Stitt
“Chef Acheson was a great addition to our ChefConnect General Session. His philosophy on our industry and his perspective on locality were an inspiration to all of us. ”
American Culinary Federation
Community Development
Green Business
Social Change
Student Activities
Social Media