Chef Virginia Willis on Writing Cookbooks and Her Wellness Journey

chef virginia willis

About Virginia Willis

This week on the podcast I have James Beard Foundation Award-winner, chef Virginia Willis. She was the TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree and executive producer for Epicurious TV on the Discovery Channel. She’s made cookies with Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in Sicily, and beguiled celebrities such as Jane Fonda and Bill Clinton with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Virginia is the author of a number of books including Lighten Up, Y’all, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, Okra, and Grits.

On This Week’s Podcast

On the show, we discuss how she got into writing cookbooks, how her cooking style has changed, and her wellness journey which has led to her losing 70 pounds. We talk about food media, and credible sources for recipes and cooking tips. Virginia’s also passionate about sustainable seafood, and we discuss that as well.

This Week’s Sponsor

Looking to make better pizza? How about bagels, bread, or English muffins? Then you need a Baking Steel. Don’t just take my word for it. Kenji López-Altof Serious Eats/The Food Lab said “this is the answer I’ve been waiting for to produce consistently awesome pizza over and over”.

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Shrimp & Grits Recipe with Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn

About Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn

Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn is the result of its founder’s lifelong dedication to improving the world through science and agriculture. Over 20 years ago Torbert set out to answer a simple, but revolutionary question: can you naturally make corn more nutritious? Could you deliver the benefits of a vegetable through a grain?

Today, non-GMO Orange Corn is helping fight micronutrient deficiencies in more than 10 African countries. The vibrant orange color comes from significantly increased levels of carotenoids. Torbert decided to see what he could do with it here at home. To his delight, he found that not only could Americans’ eye health potentially benefit from its higher levels of antioxidant carotenoids, but it also tasted unbelievably good.

So, when you choose Professor Torbert’s, you aren’t just saying yes to better flavor, you’re also helping deliver better nutrition on a global scale. Tastes good, feels good.

All of Professor Torbert’s products – grits, corn meal, and corn flour – are non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegan. Professor Torbert’s is not your average corn. It has a nutty, buttery flavor with a creamy texture like no other.

Where To Buy Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn

All products are sold online at, on Amazon, and wholesale.

Now through the end of November, Professor Torbert’s is happy to offer all Chefs without Restaurants listeners 10% off on all Orange Corn products at Simply use the promo code CHEFS10 (that’s chefs one zero) at checkout between now and Nov. 30 to save.

Shrimp & Grits Recipe

This is as classic as it gets: when you hear grits, you think shrimp and grits! This is Professor Torbert’s take on the recipe, hearty and full of flavor. Perfect for a Southern breakfast, or a great meal any time of day!


  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 strips of bacon, diced
  • 1 tbls butter (for cooking)
  • 12-16 fresh large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ medium onion, thinly sliced
  • Green bell pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire Sauce (gluten free)
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped (reserve some for garnish)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Method of Preparation

For the Grits:

  1. In a medium pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add grits and stir. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and add the bay leaf. Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.
  2. Once the grits are ready, stir in the heavy cream, 2 tbls unsalted butter, and cheddar cheese. Remove the bay leaf. Cook until you see your desired consistency. The grits are ready to serve.

For the Shrimp:

  1. While the grits are cooking, fry the bacon in the 1 tablespoon butter in a non-stick pan. 
  2. While the bacon is frying, toss the shrimp in the chili powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, paprika, and salt.
  3. Once the bacon is cooked, remove it from the pan and save it for later, keeping the bacon fat in the pan.
  4. Add the onions and bell peppers to the hot pan, and sauté on medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and cook briefly.
  5. Add the shrimp, and add Worcestershire Sauce, parsley, and lemon juice. Keep the heat at medium, to make sure the garlic does not burn. The shrimp should turn to a white-pink color while they cook, about 3 minutes on each side.
  6. Add the bacon back to the mixture, and heat through briefly.
  7. Transfer grits to a bowl, and top with the shrimp and veggies. Garnish with cayenne pepper and parsley. 

The Chefs Without Restaurants Podcast – Episode 71 A Discussion with Chef and Food Writer Amethyst Ganaway

You can listen to the show on BuzzsproutITunesSpotifyTuneInStitcherAmazon MusicPandora and I Heart Radio.

On this week’s Chefs Without Restaurants podcast I have Amethyst Ganaway. She’s worked in the food business for more than 10 years, in both the front and back of the house. Besides being a chef, she also does food writing. You can find her work on her website Geechie Gordita, as well as in Food & WinePlateSerious EatsGarden & Gun and Eater

We discuss:

·       asking “why” in the kitchen

·       transferable skills and being well-rounded

·       food writing, and getting paid for your work



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Chefs Without Restaurants Founder Chris Spear of Perfect Little Bites

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Outro music provided by podcast guest Dylan Ubaldo (check out Toyomansi)