Meet the Chefs

Chef Chris Bolton: Harvest Habersham

chris boltonAt Harvest Habersham we’re dedicated to great food         that is inspired by fresh local ingredients. We work with  dozens of local farms to procure ripe ingredients and  prepare them in a way that enhances their fresh flavors.  We call this style of cooking “Genuine Food”.   Our menu  depends on the farmers, fishermen and foragers, so the  menu changes frequently based on whatever fresh i    ingredients are available.

harvest hab logo

Chef Chris Bolton grew up in Clarkesville and has been focused on farm to table cooking from the start of his career. It is thrilling for him to see how far the community around us has come in the last few years in terms of local food awareness and how it benefits not only our physical well-being but also the health of the local economy. What a pleasure to see this movement grow into the school system and help educate and guide the next generation back toward genuine food.  It has been an honor to work with the Farm to School staff and students.

Chef Chris has prepared delectable meals for Farm to School events and taught Farm to School Ambassadors how to make a very unique apple-mint ravioli using locally milled whole wheat, local eggs, local milk, local mint, and North Carolina apples. Enjoy your own taste of Harvest Habersham for lunch or dinner.  1362 Washington Street, Clarkesville, GA 30523, Tel: 706-754-0056, Hours: Tuesday – Friday Lunch: 11:30 – 2:00 and Tuesday – Saturday Dinner 5:30 – 9:00.


Chef Jamie Allred: Fortify Kitchen & Bar 

jamie With fewer households cooking from scratch these days,  kids are often missing even the most basic food  preparation skills. Recognizing that knowing how to cook  is a life skill that can help lead to healthier choices, the  Northeast Georgia Farm to School program has  partnered with local chefs to bring that knowledge into  the classroom.

Chef Jaime Allred led a hands-on cooking workshop for Habersham County’s Farm to School Youth Ambassadors. The goal of the workshop was to expose students to culinary skills using produce from local farms that they have visited. The students learned knife skills, zesting and peeling, as well as food safety and proper hand washing.   Check out the video here.

Chef Jamie finds working with students a great resource to show our future where their food comes from and how it is grown. “I enjoy providing the students the hands on experiences and teaching them what goes into preparing fresh food for consumption from washing, chopping, and cooking.  The end results are satisfying and offer great nourishment for the soul.  I think it is also great for students to see and use skills in a trade that could lead them into a career and eventually will be part of their well being as they will know how to cook for themselves fresh food compared to processed.”

A special thank you to Chef Jamie!  He has led numerous hands-on workshops for the Northeast Georgia farm to school project, including workshops with cafeteria staff and nutrition directors. Formerly the executive chef at Lake Rabun Hotel, Chef Jamie has opened his own restaurant,Fortify Kitchen and Bar, 69 North Main Street, Clayton, Ga.


Chef Barrie Aycock: Farm to School chef 

ChefBarrie Barrie Aycock, retired executive chef and former owner  of Glen-Ella Springs Inn & Restaurant had been reading  about farm to school and stepped up to serve as a farm to  school chef for NEGA.  “I am excited about the potential  impact this program can have on our community and our  children’s health. Fresher food in the cafeteria equals  more nutritious and tasty food for the students” says  Chef Aycock.

Chef Aycock is one of our F2S chefs who works with our school nutrition team. Recent trainings with school nutrition staff Chef Aycock stressed the importance of food safety, washing and storage of fresh farm produce. From there, she led the staff through their own practice session, demonstrating different ways of cutting fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs to make them look more appealing, and having them practice on their own in the development of fresh produce recipes.


Chef Whitney Denham: Grapes & Beans  

CookingWChefWhitney.Group1 Chef Whitney Denham, Executive Chef at  Grapes and Beans in Clayton, works with  our teachers and students to connect  cooking to education. Coming from a  educational background and years of  teaching in the classroom and now chef.

Whitney effectively weaves math, science, history and literature into lessons on cooking with students and teachers.

Students cooking with local chefs builds students’ confidence and excitement in the kitchen, teaching them valuable skills about cooking fresh, healthy meals using local ingredients. “This program provides valuable information about agriculture, nutrition, sustainability, and what it’s like to have a culinary career. Students are encouraged to taste, smell, touch, and appreciate fresh and healthy ingredients, and are empowered to bring the recipes and ideas home to their families” says Chef Whitney. “Students learn to make everything from pizza to frittata – all from scratch and utilizing locally grown ingredients”.


Chef Geleta G. “Gigi” Hunt: Glen Ella Inn & Restaurant 

gigi Chef Geleta G. “Gigi” Hunt has discovered the wonderful  world of fresh fruits and vegetables and wants to share  her discovery with local students. Fresh fruits and  vegetables not only quell our hunger and provide our  nutrition, but they provide opportunities for creativity,  for social events and for expressing our individual  heritage. Almost everyone remembers unique and special  meals or dishes.

Sometimes these memories focus on the warm and comforting feelings that we had when we ate with family and relatives. Perhaps the event was a celebration. Maybe we got to know someone better, when we ate the food that was from our new friend’s cultural background, and we saw for the first time what our friend ate at their house. Then there are those obscure and tasty ingredients that we have never eaten before but are brave enough to try. Food even can be used to increase our bodily stamina and strength and combat some illnesses. Many of these benefits can exist in wonderfully prepared school lunches as well.

These aspects of the world of food have fueled Chef Gigi’s passion to “explore”, “experiment” and best of all “eat”. She recently graduated from Culinary School where she learned the ropes. A great opportunity then presented itself for Chef “Gigi” to live in New Orleans for a few months and train with some of the most highly acclaimed Creole and Contemporary French New Orleans chefs. She now works on weekends at Glen Ella Inn and Restaurant as a cook.

Chef Gigi is eager to share her background of working with fresh fruits and vegetables with our local students. As someone who has had lifelong involvement with Southern home cooking, Chef Gigi believes that the tried and true methods and recipes for our Southern fruits and vegetables are treasures that should continue to be cherished, but that many new tastes and flavor blends are just waiting to be prepared and enjoyed. Her dishes are a combination of old favorites and dishes with innovative twists. Our best meals are ahead of us, and our students should be a part of it all.   Get ready to “explore”, “experiment” and “eat.


Chef Lindsey Payne: Lindsey’s Culinary Market

chef lindsey payne

Lindsey Payne is the owner and head chef of Lindsey’s Culinary Market in  Athens. She has been involved as a chef in the Habersham County Farm to School  program, helping with taste tests and training cafeteria staff, and recently we got to  hear more of her story.

 How did you get into cooking?
 I have always loved to cook. I wrote an  “autobiography” in 5th grade and included recipes in it for Jello molds and cakes  that I loved to make. Finally after 20 years working in health care I decided I wanted to go to culinary school and make a new career for the remainder of my life. I tell people all the time how everyone is so much happier to see me with food and beverages than they ever were with needles and medicine. The best time of my life was when I was in culinary school in Charleston, S.C.

Why did you decide to help out with Farm to School?
 My good friend Teri Hamlin, the northeast Georgia Farm to School coordinator, told me about it and asked for my assistance. I had worked at a restaurant on a vineyard before where we had our own kitchen garden. Guests to the winery would tour our gardens while waiting on a table. I was always so amazed that so many people had never seen vegetables growing. They had only seen them in the grocery store. It made me believe that not knowing where the food you ate came from equaled not having an adventuresome palette. What a travesty! In this day of kids meals and chicken nuggets, children are not being exposed to so many culinary delights. There’s nothing that compares to a tomato or ear of corn fresh from the garden!

What’s your favorite part about participating in Farm to School?
 It’s hilarious to see the kids’ reactions to the vegetables. Some turn their noses up and act like there is no way they would eat such a thing – that drives me crazy! Some will try it and really like it and they can’t believe they did. Then of course there are those that come back for more! The hard thing for me is trying to come up with ways to serve the vegetables so the kids will find it appealing. But that is what I strive to do every day in my restaurant/catering business as well!

Why should schools have Farm to School programs?
 I think it is important for our future for students to learn about how food is produced and what they’re putting in their body. They should learn there are options and how they can be affected by them. Knowledge is power. Also, cooking and eating is just fun – it’s a part of life!


Chef Wendy Tedder: Sugartopia

wendy Wendy Tedder, owner of Sugartopia in Cornelia, GA, is  our newest addition to the Farm to School Chef line-up,  and having her on board has been a “sweet treat”.

Wendy grew up in Habersham County and has a business  degree from the University of Georgia.  She has been  married to her high school sweetheart, Dwayne Tedder,  for 14 years and they have three children, Patrick (12),  Katie (10), and Jillian (5).

It was always important to Wendy that she baked her own cakes for her children rather than buying them from the grocery store, and she turned out to be pretty good at it! Before opening Sugartopia, Wendy baked and decorated cakes out of her home for three years. This grew so much that she either had to quit baking cakes all together, or take it to the next level and open her own store.  Sugartopia opened on April 19, 2014, and since then, over 20,000 cupcakes and 350 decorated celebration cakes have gone out their doors.

She is excited to be apart of Farm to School because of her deep connection and love for her community. Although she grew up in Habersham County, she has lived in various parts of Georgia including Atlanta and Marietta, but she moved back to Habersham County as soon as she got the chance. She knows many of the children in the schools from growing up here, being an active member of the community, and through church. Her brother, Rodney Long, who she calls “Buddy”, is the assistant principal at Wilbanks Middle School, and Wendy explains that he is great help and support for the bakery.

Sugartopia doesn’t just make delicious layer cakes, they offer a large variety of sweet treats that are all made fresh inside their own store. There are five varieties of cupcakes that are always offered including, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, key lime, and red velvet, as well as other varieties that change daily. Some seasonal flavors offered right now during the Fall are pumpkin spice and banana pecan. Wendy says, “We like to dip things in chocolate at Sugartopia!”, so they offer various types of candies, truffles, cake balls, chocolate covered cookie dough, and peanut butter balls. Sugartopia also takes orders and they can make anything you want, including pies, cakes, cupcakes, and decorative cakes for you next baby shower, birthday, or wedding.

Sugartopia is located at 153 Quality Foods Shopping Center Cornelia, GA 30531. Their hours are Tuesday-Friday: 10:00 am- 7:00 pm and Saturdays: 10:00 am- 2:00 pm. Visit their website for more information and photos of their delicious treats!


Chef Ryan Spruhan: Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant

chef ryan2 Executive Chef at the Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant,  Chef Ryan, is actively involved with carrying on the  tradition of Farm to Table dining by supporting local  farms and farmers, using fresh local ingredients in the  food he prepares. As a father of two daughters, he  believes very strongly in the innovative Farm to School  Northeast Georgia program goal of “providing more  nutritious options for our children.” He believes that this  program will also forge and foster community partnerships and help the overall health of the local economy.

Prior to relocating in Rabun County to assume the Executive Chef position at Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant, Chef Ryan, worked in some of the top restaurants in the south. He got his start as a dishwasher in Maggie Valley, NC and fell in love with food, the preparation of it, and learning that through this career path he could truly express himself and make people happy. “Hands on” involvement has been his great teacher. Using this same “hands on” approach to help children learn about food, where it comes from, how it grows, and how to prepare it in fun and tasty ways is something in which he’s fully devoted. What better place to do it than here in Habersham and Rabun Counties, the great farmland of Georgia.

Chef Ryan Spruhan has been recognized as a Best Chef America 2013 and 2014 and Best Chef in the South 2014.


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