Celebrity Judges

Marcus Samuelsson. James Beard Award-winning chef and cookbook author Marcus Samuelsson, perhaps best known for his appearance on Top Chef, is, the youngest chef to ever receive two three-star ratings from The New York Times, and is the former Executive Chef of Aquavit.  He is currently the owner and executive chef of Red Rooster in Harlem.

Marvin Woods. Chef Marvin Woods is an Emmy® Award-nominated television host, lauded cookbook author and celebrity chef. He is recognized by fans and peers alike by his infectious personality, signature bandanas and his wildly inventive take on food rooted in northern Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the Low Country.  Chef Marvin is a 23-year veteran in the hospitality and restaurant industry. His first big break came when he helped Donald Trump open Harrah’s at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. He then went on to New York City to build an impressive culinary pedigree, starting with The Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center, and then on to the Windows on the World, Helmsley Palace, Quatorze and Arizona 206. He further cultivated his talent in London.  When Marvin took over as Executive Chef at New York’s Café Beulah’s, he won wide industry acclaim and caught the attention of publishers and television executives.  Chef Marvin was tapped to lead the kitchens of Savannah Restaurant, The National Hotel, Hollywood Prime at the Westin Diplomat and M. Woods – all in Miami. His healthy, quick food was regularly featured in O Magazine, Food & Wine, Southern Living and many more national publications. Oprah declared, “Chef Marvin Woods’ dishes are light, sophisticated, exotic!”

Ruben Studdard is an R&B, pop, and gospel singer. He rose to fame as winner of the second season of American Idol. He received a Grammy Award nomination in December 2003 for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Superstar."  In the years following Idol, Studdard has released four studio albums, including his most recent disc, 2009’s Love Is.

Trina Braxton is a multi-talented actress and singer, who most notably appeared in the 2004 Tyler Perry play, Meet the Browns.  She has toured and traveled with several other plays and co-starred in two independent films.  Trina started singing with her three sisters in the group ‘The Braxton’s.’ Trina stars in the Wetv reality show ‘Braxton Family Values’ with her sisters.  

Towanda Braxton is one of four sisters that make up ‘The Braxtons.’  Even though she and her siblings were reared in church singing, Towanda knew she wanted to spread her wings and become a trailblazer in her own right as an entertainer. A noted singer and entertainer, she’s appeared in off-Broadway shows, and made several albums, but is perhaps most famous for her show ‘Braxton Family Values’ on We.  

Evelyn Braxton is the mother of the talented group of Braxton sisters, and also a cast member of ‘Braxton Family Values’ on We. 

Tanya Holland Tanya Holland is the Executive Chef and Owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen and B-Side BBQ in Oakland, CA, both featuring her inventive takes on modern soul food, Southern and barbecue. The author of New Soul Cooking: Updating a Cuisine Rich in Flavor and Tradition (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), Holland is perhaps best known for her role as a host and expert on Soul Food for the “Melting Pot” series on The Food Network. Holland has made guest appearances on The Today Show, Sarah Moulton’s Cooking Live, Ready, Set, Cook!, The Wayne Brady Show, G. Garvin’s Road Tour, and VH1’s Soul Cities, and will be featured on The Great American Chef’s Tour this fall on PBS. Holland received her formal French training (receiving a Grande Diplôme) from La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Burgundy, France. Holland has contributed to The Huffington Post, Food & Wine, Signature Bride, and Wine Enthusiast magazines, and has been featured in articles in O Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Savoy, Travel & Leisure, Sunset, and numerous other publications. Chef Holland is a regular instructor at Rancho La Puerta Spa in Tecate, Mexico (Rated #1 spa in the world by Travel & Leisure). Holland is a member of the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier. The City of Oakland recently declared June 5th, 2012 as Tanya Holland Day for her "Significant Role in Creating Community and Establishing Oakland as a Culinary Center".

Brian Hill (Chef Brian) is a celebrity chef who gained notoriety as a contestant on the first season of the television show Top Chef.  Since then he has been one of the six regular chefs in the Food Network reality show Private Chefs of Beverly Hills.  He has worked as a private chef for Mary J. Blige, Eddie Murphy and P. Diddy among others.  Raised in northwest Washington D.C. by a single mother who was such a bad cook "she burned hardboiled eggs," Hill took over cooking for his family at age 13 to save his childhood.  In March 2010, he launched the Comfort Truck in Los Angeles, California serving "Classic American, European and Caribbean cuisine.  Chef Brian is a favorite food personality at Triage.

Vanessa A. Williams is an actress who has appeared in several television series such as Melrose Place and the Showtime cable television series Soul Food. In 1996, she was featured in the television series Murder One. In 1988, she appeared in the music video for "Parents Just Don’t Understand" sung by rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.

Nicole Ari Parker Kodjoe also known as Nikki Kodjoe, is an actress and a former model. She is perhaps best known for her role as attorney Teri Joseph on the Showtime television drama series Soul Food and her role as Becky Barnett in Boogie Nights.

Malinda Williams is an actress. She is best known for her role as Erica Wright in the 1996 movie, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate and as the hair stylist Tracy "Bird" Van Adams in the Showtime acclaimed drama series, Soul Food, from June 2000 to May 2004.

Loni Love is an American comedian and actress. After quitting her job as an electrical engineer in 2003, Love began to pursue a career in stand up comedy. She was the runner-up in Star Search 2003 and was named "Top 10 Comics to Watch" in both Variety and Comedy Central in 2009. Her many television appearances include “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn,” and VH1′s “I Love the 70′s/80′s/90′s,” among numerous others.

Rockmond Dunbar is actor who is perhaps best known for his roles as Kenny Chadway on theShowtime television drama series Soul Food, and as Benjamin Miles "C-Note" Franklin on the FOX television drama series Prison Break. In 2010, he was featured in FX’s crime comedy-drama Terriers as detective Mark Gustafson, which ran for one season.

Trevor Noah.  Trevor has been performing for a little over 2 years but is already recognized as one of the top comedians in the country. His career highlights already include opening for international superstar Russell Peters on his South African Tour, charming audiences with his comedy opening for Julio Iglesias on his tour of the country and being the only comedian in South Africa to have made the cut for the international audition of NBC’s Last Comic Standing.  Recently he was also chosen to represent his country as the only local act at the Jozi International Comedy Festival that included 6 other headlining acts from 6 other countries.  He has also been booked to perform at the biggest festival in the country – this year’s installment Cape Town International Comedy Festival in the Main Arena. He has already had 3 television shows on national television with more in the pipeline.

Willie Box is the former Executive Chef of Straits Restaurant in Atlanta, GA and also the personal/private chef for Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges.  A personal friend of Ludacris, he became his chef after training at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Bone Crusher, is an American rapper/singer based in Atlanta.  He debuted in 2003 with his first solo album AttenCHUN! which featured the single "Never Scared". The song features T.I. and Killer Mike and accompanied with a video that reached heavy rotation on MTV, BET and other networks.

Aundrea Dumas is the CEO and Founder of MaBelle’s Brand, LLC, Home of the World’s Famous, MaBelle’s ShrabCakes.  Aundrea and her company have also been featured in The Atlanta Journal Constitution and selected by Atlanta Tribune Magazine as one of the Top 25 Black Owned Companies in Atlanta Georgia.  

Ngo Okafor has graced the pages and covers of countless magazines and has been called the most downloaded black male model.  As an actor he has worked on numerous tv shows, movies an soap operas.  As a boxer, he is a back-to-back two time Golden Gloves Champion.

Deon Cole is one of the most requested headlining comedians in the club and college circuit nationwide.  He is also a successful actor, having appeared in MTV’s Short Circuitz, and Wild N’ Out with Nick Cannon as well as the movies Barbershop 1 and 2.  He’s made appearances on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, BET’s Comic View, and Showtime at the Apollo.

Derek J. is a celebrity stylist who became a household name after an appearance on Bravo’s ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta.’ He has also appeared on Oxygen’s ‘Hair Battle Spectacular’, as well as in Chris Rock’s noted hair documentary, ‘Good Hair.’  He has styled hair for the likes of Nicole Ari Parker, Angie Stone, and Keisha Knight Pulliam.  He runs a salon in Atlanta called J. Spot.

Bryan-Michael Cox is a GRAMMY award winning American songwriter and record producer. He worked with Jagged Edge, which resulted in him meeting Jermaine Dupri, which lead to Cox producing and writing for Usher Raymond, Mariah Carey, Nivea, Monica, Da Brat andLil’ Bow Wow. Cox has co-written and co-produced hits such as Carey’s "Don’t Forget About Us", Usher’s "Burn" and U Got It Bad’s "Confessions, Pt. 2". He has won two Grammyawards his for work on albums by Carey and Usher. Mary J. Blige’s "Be Without You" marked his first Hot 100 Top 5 hit without Dupri.

Chamique Holdsclaw is a professional basketball player in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) most recently under a contract with the San Antonio Silver Stars. She announced her retirement from the Los Angeles Sparks on June 11, 2007, though she eventually came out of retirement to play with the Atlanta Dream for the 2009 WNBA Season.

Brandon Smith is an actor, comedian, singer, dancer and rapper, best known for his roles as Li’l Danny Dawkins in Phil of the Future, Nico Harris in Sonny with a Chance and So Random!, and Stubby in Starstruck.

Jessica Harris is an educator, culinary historian, and an acclaimed cookbook author.  Harris has spent much of her life researching the food and foodways of the African Diaspora.  She has written several books, including The Welcome Table: African-American Heritage Cooking and Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gifts to New World Cooking.  Her latest book is High on the Hog, an engaging history of African American cuisine.  From chitlins and ham hocks to fried chicken and vegan soul, Harris celebrates the African American experience and details how food came to form such an important part of African American culture, history, and identity.  High on the Hog fills an important gap in our culinary history.  Harris has been honored numerous times for spreading the word of African and Caribbean cuisines around the world. Some of her awards include an appreciation award from Walt Disney World Epcot Center, the Heritage Award from the Black Culinarians, and the Food Hero award from Eating Well Magazine. She has also appeared on numerous televisions programs, including Good Morning America and The Today Show.

Kandi Burruss, better known by her stage names Kandi or Kandi Girl, is an R&B singer-songwriter and record producer, formerly a member of the group Xscape. After the disbanding of Xscape, Burruss began to focus on production and songwriting. In 1999, Burruss teamed with bandmate Tameka "Tiny" Cottle to score the international number one hit "No Scrubs" for TLC. The single received a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, MTV Video Music Award, Billboard Music Award and Soul Train Music Award. That same year, Burruss scored a hit for Destiny’s Child on their second album, "The Writing’s on the Wall". "Bills, Bills, Bills", also topped the Billboard "Hot 100" chart & was followed by their second single "Bug a Boo", also penned by Burruss. Kandi would go on to work with then newcomer Pink by penning her debut single "There You Go" off Pink’s debut album "Can’t Take Me Home".  Burruss was the first African-American woman ever to win ASCAP’s Songwriter of the Year award in 2000. She won for Songwriter of the year in the Rhythm & Soul category.  

Phaedra Parks is an entertainment attorney and television personality and a managing partner of the Parks Group PC.  She was also a legal analyst for NBC and Fox News. She has appeared on shows such as, Court TV and Extra, as well as Entertainment Tonight. She is well known for representing some very high profile clients. It is said that she has handled clients such as, Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, Ludacris and more. In 2006, she was awarded the Attorney of the Year, and gained recognition in magazines, such as, Rolling Out Magazine and The Atlanta Business Chronicle. Phaedra Parks is also a cast member of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, which she first appeared on in season three. She has made quite a name for herself, as one of Atlanta’s Top Women of Influence according to the Atlanta Business League, as well as, holding the position of consulting producer of the Toya and Tiny Show, a BET series which was aired in June of 2009.

Chef Jamika. Beginning her professional career as a corporate marketing executive, Jamika, known for her risky moves, gave up her lucrative job to pursue her passion for food and cooking to enter the culinary industry. Her classical training included studying in European countries such as Venice, Italy and Vienna, Austria and graduation from the International Culinary Schools at the Art Institute of Atlanta. She also worked for the renowned Ritz Carlton Hotel.  Recognizing her yearning to be the boss, she paired her love for cooking and entertaining and in 2006, began her business – Life of the Party Personal Chef Services.  Positioned as a “Chef to the Stars”, Chef Jamika became a highly sought after personal chef in Atlanta, Georgia, cooking for numerous celebrities and professional athletes.  Relying strictly on word-of-mouth advertising and maintaining her professional reputation, Chef Jamika expanded her business by becoming the chef for various corporate events hosted by Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Def Jam Recordings, Black Entertainment Television, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Hawks, and ProFiles Sports, Inc.

Jordan Jude Babineauxs a football safety for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League. He was signed by the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2004 out of Southern Arkansas University.

Jonathan Babineaux is an NFL defensive tackle for the Atlanta Falcons. He was drafted with the 59th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons.

Heather Jones is a professionally trained Chef, freelance Food writer, Cooking Instructor, and Recipe Tester/Developer.  She is also the creator of the culinary blog, The Blacker The Berry.  She is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City (formerly Peter Kumps New York Cooking School), has worked for Gourmet Magazine, TV Personality Katie Brown, and the New York based Indian-fusion restaurant Tabla.

Cake Man Raven, creator of the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Big Ben, Columbia’s Lowe Library, and the World’s tallest cake ever created in Times Square, New York City. He has been called Cake Boy in Lynchburg where he learned his craft from his late grandmother Evelyn Nowlin Murrell, and the start of his entrepreneurial venture of a hobby of baking sweets, (2 coconut pies) to his 1st Wedding Cake at the age of 16.  Arriving at Johnson & Wales University in Providence Rhode Island, his local paper sent him away as the “ Cake Man” taking that name after graduation.  Home bound to Harlem USA, The New York Times featured him as “Harlem cake” 1991 CBS Nightly News, introduced this Culinary pastry artist to the world. Having traveled the country both domestic and abroad. He has been renowned countless times from The View to USA Today, syndicated/international radio as creator of the world famous Southern Red Velvet Cake.

Darryl Taylor is the innovative Executive Chef and Owner of Epicurean Drama Caterers and Events in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to moving to Atlanta Darryl worked as an Associate Chef for several successful catering and event companies in Memphis, TN.  He also owned and operated Taylor’s Riverfront, an upscale event Venue in downtown Memphis, and was the guest host and Chef on the local TV Program “In good taste” for several years.

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