Celebrity Judges

Robb Walsh (host and head judge): Walsh was one of the founders of the annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival when he served as Food editor of this publication. He currently lives in Houston and reviews restaurants for the Houston Press. He has authored several books on Texas cooking and has won James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards.

Paula Disbrowe: Food writer and city girl Disbrowe covered all kinds of stories for major food magazines and newspapers, until an assignment at a Texas dude ranch brought with it a career change to working cowgirl chef. Now based in Austin, she's the author of Cowgirl Cuisine and Crescent City Cooking (with Susan Spicer), both nominated for International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Awards in 2008. Disbrowe has just completed her third cookbook.

Bob Blumer: Canadian-born culinary adventurer Blumer is the host and co-creator of the Food Network series The Surreal Gourmet and, more recently, Glutton for Punishment. He is also the author of four cookbooks. Blumer and his crew have been in Austin this week tasting restaurant salsas, visiting pepper growers, and talking to experienced former Hot Sauce Contest judges in preparation for his first appearance at the judges table.

David Garrido: European-born Garrido began his cooking career training under Southwestern cuisine pioneers Stephan Pyles and Bruce Auden. For many years, Garrido was executive chef of Jeffrey's restaurants in Austin and Washington, D.C., and is also co-owner of O's Campus Cafe on the UT campus. Currently the corporate chef of Chuy's Comida Deluxe, Garrido is the co-author (with Robb Walsh) of Nuevo Tex-Mex and expects to open the eponymous Garrido's restaurant here by the end of the year.

Jack Gilmore: Chef Gilmore's tastes were shaped by a childhood in South Texas. He began his cooking career on South Padre Island working with the old Cajun cooks at Pelican's Wharf, followed by several gigs in Austin and the Hill Country. Gilmore is the founding chef of the homegrown Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill chain and one of the leading practitioners of modern Southwestern cuisine.

Alan Lazarus: Executive chef and co-owner of the highly acclaimed Vespaio Ristorante and SoCo hot spot Enoteca Vespaio next door, Lazarus has long been considered one of River City's top toques. His more than 35 years of cooking in Austin have included long stints at the popular Basil's and with Whole Foods Market.

Tyson Cole
Tyson Cole (Photo by John Anderson)

Victor Leal: Leal is the second-generation Tex-Mex chef of the original Leal's Mexican Restaurant in the Panhandle farm town of Muleshoe, as well as owner of the upscale Leal's Mexican Restaurant in Amarillo. Other members of his family own Leal's restaurants in Texas and New Mexico, in addition to Leal's Best Corn & Flour Tortillas, which sells a line of premium, stone-ground tortilla chips that are available at Central Market and gourmet shops.

Tyson Cole: Chef Cole studied under sushi masters in New York and Tokyo before opening his wildly successful multicultural restaurant, Uchi, in Austin. A recent Iron Chef competitor, Cole was recognized as one of the Top 10 new chefs of 2005 by Food & Wine magazine and has been voted Best Chef in Austin by Austin Chronicle readers in the annual "Restaurant Poll" three years in a row.

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