The Judges

(Click images to learn more)


Elaine Johnson

Judge elaine johnson.jpg

Senior Food Editor, Sunset Magazine

As a food editor, writer, and recipe developer, Elaine Johnson has cooked everything from backpacker’s Panang Curry at 7,500 feet to weeknight-friendly White Wine Coq au Vin. Her stories have covered chefs and home cooks, social influencers and a Syrian refugee. She’s passionate about promoting home cooking and building community. Outdoor cooking is a big interest, and Johnson is the co-editor of Camp Sunset (Oxmoor, May 2016) and Sunset's Great Outdoors Cookbook (Oxmoor, 2014). Additional book projects include contributions to The Sunset Cookbook and The One-Block Feast. She has also worked as a freelance writer, editor, and recipe developer for magazines and cookbooks such as Safeway's Every Season, Weber’s Charcoal Grilling, and Weber’s Way to Grill. Johnson lives in Palo Alto with her husband and twin sons.


Chef Joni Sare

Chef Joni started her private practice as "personal trainer for the kitchen." Joni's teaching focus is to assist others --from 6 yrs old and up-- to find their inner cook, to show them how to create food that they like, and help them develop a new automatic pilot in the kitchen that works for them, their health. Her passion is to create a seamless boundary between eating for health, eating for pleasure and eating sustainably. As a trained nutritional chef, she acknowledges that food is one of the top offenders for damaging the body; and is a major hero to bring the body and mind back to full potential. "Healthy cooking is the best preventive medicine," is her motto. As a personal chef, she provides weekly meals for families, and caters private events, with health, pleasure and sustainability in mind.

judge joni sare.png

In 2012, she co-authored a cookbook "Upgraded Chef"with Dave Asprey, author and founder of "The Bulletproof Diet." In 2014, she joined the leadership team of Slow Food South Bay, the local chapter for this international sustainable food organization and became Board Chair last year. In 2015, she began working with Epicurean Group, a sustainable food management company for campuses and tech companies administering their "Food Literacy" program. In 2016, Joni was named "Best Personal Chef" in Silicon Valley, by the San Francisco Magazine. You can find her on Cozymeal --doing off-site team building cooking parties and at Ovenues and Yelp for your next party.


Chef Charles Honea

judge charles honea.png

Chef Charles Honea is an experienced  executive chef in the Bay Area. He has mastered his trade by working alongside numerous brilliant chefs and mentors over an incredible  24 year journey to culinary excellence. 


He has had the opportunity to create great meals at Nordstrom, the brewery Lake Tahoe and a famous large search technology company, providing meals for thousands. He enjoys bringing smiles to people through his food.

Chef Jessie Lugo


Chef Lugo began her career with Tillman’s Roadhouse and Nobu of Dallas, Texas. She then moved to San Francisco to pursue her Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts at Le Cordon Bleu. Later, she accepted a position at Michelin Starred Acquerello, where she worked under renowned Chef Suzette Gresham and graduated to Sous Chef at Acquerello at the age of 23. She most recently joined Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco.

Chef Lugo fuses her Southern background with her learned knowledge of flavors and techniques to create a flavor forward style of cuisine at Alexander’s Steakhouse where Chef Jessie firmly abides by her motto of refusing to sacrifice flavor. Her overall goal as a chef is to let food be delicious. 
She is a former participant and winner of 2016 Chefs of Compassion.


Judge Jessie Lugo.JPG