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We're excited to see the field of competitors who have already won their golden ticket and registered to compete at the 2017 World Food Championships. And we are always proud to announce our special guests and celebrity judges participating in our judging events across the nation - we're sure the championship food certainly helps! Best of luck to our 2017 competitors!


Marc Taft

HEAD COOK: Marc Taft

COMPETITION: Bacon World Championship

With extensive experience in the hospitality industry, chef Marc Taft brings a wealth of knowledge to his Atlanta restaurant development, consulting and management company, Southern Fried Hospitality. Taft considers himself a chef first and foremost, but as president of the company, he is also focused on concept development, growth and culinary operations. Additionally, he provides consulting services to other restaurants and hotel food and beverage operations. Founded in January 2017, Southern Fried Hospitality includes Chicken and the Egg in Marietta, Brine Seafood Shack at Avalon in Alpharetta and FEED Fried Chicken + Such at The Battery, the Atlanta Braves development surrounding SunTrust Park – and has several restaurants planned for 2018. Taft has also recently worked with First Hospitality Group to oversee food and beverage operations for 70+ hotels and restaurants, and has served as senior director of openings, acquisitions and transitions for New York-based The ONE Group, as well as overseeing West Coast operations for their restaurant and hotel hospitality divisions. As a seasoned hospitality executive, Taft strives to think more progressively, utilize emerging technology and attract a multi-generational workforce to create a more purpose-driven company. “I am challenging myself to create a hospitality company that adds value to the community and those working for us,” says Taft. “I’m developing this company from the inside out, first focusing on the employee experience that will drive a great guest experience.” Since opening Chicken and the Egg restaurant in August 2011, Taft has received many accolades for his sophisticated yet approachable modern farmstead fare. The 2012/13 Zagat Survey recognized Chicken and the Egg as one of the “Top Five Best New Restaurants in Atlanta,” while AirTran’s GO magazine named the restaurant one of five culinary destinations for an upscale meal in Atlanta. Taft’s recipes have been featured in various publications, including the Southern Living cookbook “Off the Eaten Path – Second Helpings.” Named a Georgia Grown Executive Chef by Governor Nathan Deal, Taft was chosen to represent the State Department of Agriculture as an ambassador for Georgia farmers and crops in 2014. Best Chefs America also recognized him as one of the top chefs in the Southeast and the United States from 2013-2015. Throughout his career, Taft has overseen more than 40 new restaurant openings and managed restaurants in major cities around the country. With a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama, Taft started out working for national restaurant companies such as Carlson Hospitality and Brinker International. He has served as the general manager for The Inn at Evins Mill in Tennessee, BANK Restaurant in Minneapolis, Domaso Trattoria Moderna in Washington, D.C. and Pacci Ristorante in Atlanta. During Taft’s time at Pacci, the restaurant was named one of the “Top 20 Best New Restaurants in the United States” by Esquire magazine. In addition to experience working in concept development and corporate culinary operations, his experience includes time as the director of food and beverage for the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville and the Westin Hotel in Minneapolis. After moving to Atlanta, Taft served as Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ director of restaurant operations for the Southeast region, where he was responsible for overseeing several restaurants including renowned Central 214 in Dallas and another Esquire magazine award winner, Area 31 in Miami. Taft currently resides in West Cobb with his wife, Elizabeth, and their son, Eli. He serves on the Chef Advisory Boards for Georgia Organics and Best Chefs America and is a member of the Georgia Restaurant Association. Outside of the kitchen, he enjoys traveling and spending time with his family.