These Brave Souls Judge Our Restaurant Awards

God love these hungry heroes!

One of the things that perplexes me every year around Restaurant Awards time is the suggestion that there’s some sort of secret cabal who meets in Davos to decide the winners (presumably with George Soros getting the deciding vote). The reality is that our list of judges is published in the magazine every year. Many of them have been judges for a decade, some of them longer and some are new this year. But the key is—it’s not a secret who they are.

The criteria for being a judge is simple, if a bit nebulous: eating has to be your life. And it’s a mantra that pretty much sums up our team. Some are writers, some are bloggers, one’s a chef, and many are entirely unconnected to the industry at all. That being said, no one is actively in the industry. No restaurant chefs, no owners. We’ve thought about relaxing that—our friends at Canada’s 100 Best are full of industry people, many whose restaurants are on the list. But for the time being we’re taking the one step removed approach. 

I’ve spoken about the procedure they go through before here, but a quick recap. The magazine places the judges in certain “pods” which represent each of the categories, like Best Italian. The judges can make requests, but for the most part we rotate judges out of pods every year. That’s what makes it all the more amazing when a restaurant like  Maenam or Kelowna’s Waterfront wins year after year—it’s largely different judges who all come to the same conclusion.

In any event—let’s got full transparent: here are our judges in all their glory.

Christina Burridge is the executive director of the BC Seafood Alliance.

Sid Cross continues his lifelong passion for and pursuit of high-quality food and wine and volunteering his time to help others.

Hussain Askari is Director of Operations at the Wine Vault.

DJ Kearney is a global wine expert, veteran sommelier instructor, former Van Mag Drink Editor, and a long standing Restaurant Awards judge. DJ was also a pillar of the influential Vancouver Magazine Wine Awards which ran from 2004 to 2014. In addition to teaching the WSET programs at PICA, she is the Director of Wine at Vancouver’s Terminal City Club.

Sylvia Potvin is co-owner at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts.

William Ho is a charismatic TV and radio broadcaster, well known in Vancouver’s performing arts scene. Bedsides performing, William is active on social media and is a judge at the Chinese Restaurant Awards.

Mia Stainsby is the restaurant critic for The Vancouver Sun and The Province.

Juno Kim is a conscious chef curating thoughtful and intentional culinary experiences for the top brands in town since 2012. He has recently hung up his apron to focus on commercial photography, food styling, recipe development and marketing services for restaurants and food & beverage brands. 

Rasoul Salehi began his career in the wine industry as soon as he turned 19 while attending university and studying toward his goal of staying and working in academia. Little did he know that his passion for wine would take over and shake his world. With wine comes food, and the rich history, art, culture and study of all things gastronomy. His foot has stayed on the gas pedal ever since, and his obsession only gets stronger by the day.

Sven Freybe is the sixth generation and CEO in his family’s sausage and deli meats business, Freybe Gourmet Foods, that celebrates its 176th anniversary this year. 

Gail Johnson is an award-winning print, web and broadcast journalist and a regular contributor to CBC Radio, the Georgia Straight, the Globe and Mail, Yahoo Canada and other outlets. 

Joie Alvaro Kent is a freelance writer, full-contact eater and cocktail lover who contributes regularly to Nuvo and Montecristo magazines. Her work has also appeared in Vancouver magazine and Best Places Vancouver.

Anya Levykh is a food, drink and travel writer who covers all things ingestible for print, radio and digital. She’s the host of The Nosh on Vancouver Co-op Radio and also edits—and voraciously collects—cookbooks.  

Lee Man is a regular contributor to Vancouver magazine and is a founding judge for the Chinese Restaurant Awards. 

Brendon Mathews is a freelance food writer with expertise in Chinese cuisine, and a judge of the Chinese Restaurant Awards.

Robert McCullough is a vice president of Penguin Random House Canada and publisher of Appetite, its Vancouver-based imprint with a carefully curated list of bestselling and award-winning food, drink, health and lifestyle titles.

Fernando Medrano is an avid eater who has a penchant for hole-in-the-wall restaurants. When not eating, he dabbles in tech. 

Mijune Pak is the founder of, a Food Network Canada personality and resident judge on Top Chef Canada and Iron Chef Canada.

Tim Pawsey eats, drinks, writes and shoots at, and for Where, Quench, Taste, Vitis, The Alchemist and others. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @hiredbelly, and on Facebook at

Jim Tobler has been a magazine editor and a food and wine writer for over 23 years. He has co-authored four cookbooks with the chefs of West, Blue Water Cafe, Araxi and Cin Cin.

Lindsay William-Ross is the managing editor of Vancouver Is Awesome. A fifth-generation Vancouverite, she was previously the food editor of Daily Hive, senior editor of Vancity Buzz and editor-in-chief of

Iris Yim is an experienced editor who has worked in both Hong Kong and Vancouver. She writes travel and gourmet articles for different Chinese magazines and blogs in Vancouver, including EliteGen, AutoNerve, West Canada Weekly and on a regular basis.

Heather Odendaal (WHISTLER) is the president and CEO of Bluebird Strategy and founder of the WNORTH Conference.

Shelora Sheldan (OKANAGAN) is an acclaimed food writer whose work has appeared the Penticton Herald, Western Living and numerous other publications.

Gillie Easdon (VICTORIA) is a noted freelance writer based in Victoria.