2021 Cooks of the Year

Each year, we set out to celebrate cooks who are using food as a way to make the South a better, more delicious place. And every time, we are overwhelmed by the number of people who are accomplishing that and then some. Our 2021 Cooks of the Year come from different places and backgrounds, but all share an exceptional amount of passion for what they do. The group includes a plant-based pitmaster in Georgia who is redefining barbecue, a bighearted bakery owner in Maryland who feeds her community in more ways than one, and a Kentucky teacher who built a high school culinary program from scratch. Over the past year, as the world changed and businesses shuttered and transformed, these five people faced the uncertainty with optimism, bravery, and grace—and the South is all the better for it.

Meet our 2021 Cooks of the Year

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2021 Cook of the Year: Amanda Mack
Credit: Gabriela Herman

Amanda Mack

Crust by Mack
Baltimore, MD

Through her bakery and community activism, Amanda feeds her Baltimore community in more ways than one. Click here to read more about Amanda's endeavors.

2021 Cook of the Year: Erika Kwee
Credit: Julie Soefer

Erika Kwee

The Pancake Princess
Houston, TX

Cooks all over the country rely on Erika to find and test the "best" recipes on the Internet. Read more of her story here.

2021 Cook of the Year: Nikkia Rhodes
Credit: Emily Dorio

Nikkia Rhodes

Louisville, KY

Nikkia is teaching and mentoring a new generation of culinary students in her hometown. Check out more about Nikkia here

2021 Cook of the Year: Tara Jensen
Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Tara Jensen

Sour Flour Studios
Asheville, NC

Artisanal baking and teaching are Tara's great loves, especially when it comes to sourdough.  Click here to read more about Tara.

2021 Cook of the Year: Terry Sargent
Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Terry Sargent

Grass VBQ Joint
Stone Mountain, GA

Terry is a vegan chef making waves in the BBQ world. Read more of Terry's story here.