Hugh Acheson (born November 5, 1971) is a Canadian-born chef and restaurateur. He owns four restaurants in Georgia, and serves as a judge on the reality cooking competition show Top Chef, and as an Iron Chef on Iron Chef Canada.[1]

Hugh Acheson
Born (1971-11-05) November 5, 1971 (age 47)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Spouse(s)Mary Koon (div. 2017)
Culinary career
Cooking styleSouthern cuisine

Early lifeEdit

Acheson was born on November 5, 1971 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.[2] The youngest of four children, Acheson has three older sisters.[2] His father was a professor of economics at Ottawa's Carleton University, while his mother was a reading tutor.[3] Acheson's parents divorced when he was young,[2] and he was raised primarily by his father in the Manor Park and Centretown neighbourhoods of Ottawa,[3] with the exception of two years that he spent living with his mother and stepfather in the American cities of Clemson, South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia.[2]


Acheson took his first kitchen job when he was fifteen years old,[3] as a dishwasher at Ottawa's Bank Street Café.[2][4] He subsequently worked at other well-known Ottawa restaurants, before moving to Montreal, Quebec to attend Concordia University.[2] There he studied political philosophy, but he soon dropped out to work in Italian restaurants in Montreal.[4] In 1994, Acheson moved back to Ottawa with his future wife, Mary Koon, and began working at Café Henry Burger,[2] an iconic restaurant that closed in the 2000s after over 80 years of operation.[5] At Henry Burger, Acheson learned about French cuisine, wine and etiquette under chef Rob McDonald.[6] Later in the 1990s, Acheson moved with his wife from Ottawa to her hometown of Athens, Georgia[3] so she could attend graduate school at the University of Georgia.[2][4]

On the basis of his experience in French and Italian cuisine, Acheson became the head chef and manager at the Last Resort Grill upon moving to Athens.[4] Following his wife's graduation, the couple moved to San Francisco, California, where Acheson took a job at restaurant Mecca. He subsequently worked as a sous chef for San Francisco chef Gary Danko,[2] helping him to open his eponymous restaurant.[4] After approximately two years in San Francisco, Acheson and his wife returned to Athens at the request of Melissa Clegg, the owner of Last Resort, who wanted Acheson to help her open a restaurant.[4] In turn, Acheson opened his first restaurant, Five & Ten, in Athens in 2000.[3][4] He was named one of the best new chefs in the United States by Food & Wine magazine in 2002.[3][4] Acheson opened his second Athens restaurant, The National, in 2007.[3][4] His third eatery, Empire State South, opened in Atlanta in 2010.[2][4] Cinco y Diez, a modern Mexican restaurant in Athens, was only open from January to October 2014.[7] In 2015 Acheson opened Spiller Park, a coffee shop in Ponce City Market.


In 2011, Acheson competed on season 3 of Top Chef Masters, a reality competition show in which experienced celebrity chefs compete against each other in various challenges. He was eliminated in the first round, but subsequently returned in the second episode after another chef withdrew. He ultimately finished in fifth place out of twelve competitors.[2][8] He was then invited to become a judge on season 9 of Top Chef, of which Top Chef Masters is a spin-off. Top Chef is a cooking competition show in which lesser-known chefs compete and are judged by more experienced chefs.[2][3] Season 9 aired from November 2011 to February 2012.[9] Acheson also served as a judge on season 10 of Top Chef, which ran November 2012 to February 2013.[10] In 2013, he returned as a judge on Top Chef season 11 and as host and judge of "Battle of the Sous Chefs", a component of season 5 of Top Chef Masters.[11]


Acheson published his first cookbook, A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, in 2011.[4] The book was awarded the 2012 James Beard Foundation award for "Best Cookbook in American Cooking." He was also co-winner of the 2012 James Beard Award for best chef, Southeast.[12] Hugh published his second cookbook, entitled "Pick a Pickle: 50 recipes for Pickles, Relishes and Fermented Snacks," in the spring of 2014. His third cookbook was released in the spring of 2015 under the title "The Broad Fork."[13] His latest book was released in the fall of 2017: "The Chef and the Slow Cooker."[14]

Personal lifeEdit

Acheson was married to Mary Koon,[2] a Georgia native[3] who worked as an editor at the Georgia Museum of Art.[12] They first met in middle school, when Acheson briefly lived in South Carolina with his mother.[4] They reconnected while at university in Canada, and married two years later.[4] Acheson and Koon divorced[15] quietly in 2017 both still live in Athens, Georgia. They have two daughters,[2] Beatrice and Clementine.[4]


  • A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen
  • "Pick a Pickle: 50 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, and Fermented Snacks"
  • The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits


  1. ^ "Iron Chef Canada | Cast Bios". Food Network Canada. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Hugh Acheson: Biography". Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Chris Nuttall-Smith (March 13, 2012). "Is this Canadian the Jamie Oliver of Southern cooking?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Specialty of the South: Hugh Acheson, renowned chef and family man". The Red and Black. The Red and Black. November 15, 2011. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  5. ^ "Iconic eatery Cafe Henry Burger shuts its doors after 83 years". Ottawa Citizen. January 11, 2006. Archived from the original on August 27, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  6. ^ "Hugh Acheson: Bio". Bravo TV. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "'Top Chef Masters' season 3 recap: And the winner is ..." Oregon Live. June 16, 2011. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  9. ^ "'Top Chef' Season 9: Contestants To Watch". Huffington Post. Huffington Post. November 2, 2011. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  10. ^ "'Top Chef: Seattle' Is Already Better Than Texas -- But I'm Wary". Huffington Post. Huffington Post. November 7, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  11. ^ Pennington, Gail (July 19, 2013). "Hugh Acheson tries new 'Top Chef' tricks". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  12. ^ a b "Private Quarters: Athens chef and restaurateur Hugh Acheson". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 31, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  13. ^ "Preview: The Broad Fork". May 11, 2015.
  14. ^ "The Chef and the Slow Cooker". National Public Radio. October 14, 2017.
  15. ^ "If you're just dumping a bunch of stuff into your slow cooker, you're doing it wrong". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-11-13.

External linksEdit