Meet Team Lake Murray Country 2023
September 12, 2023
Capital City Lake Murray County is returning to the World Food Championships for the third year in a row! The three winning chefs were selected to join “Team Lake Murray Country” at the Taste of Lake Murray (TOLM), on Thursday, March 2, 2023. The competitive culinary team will now represent the Palmetto State at the 11th Annual Ultimate Food Fight, scheduled for November 8-12, 2023 in Dallas, Texas.
Since 2021, the TOLM annual 4th of July Celebration fundraiser by Capital City/Lake Murray Country has been the South Carolina Super Regional Qualifier for the World Food Championships (WFC). This year 20 chefs from around the region were tasked with producing their best samples for over 800 guests, all of whom got to vote on their favorite flavors of the night to create “Team Lake Murray Country” through a ‘people’s choice’ process.
The World Food Championships is one of the highest-stakes food competitions in the world. This multi-day, live, culinary competition, showcases some of the world’s best cooks who compete for food, fame, and fortune in 12 categories (Bacon, Barbecue, Burger, Chef, Cocktail, Dessert, Live Fire, Rice/Noodle, Sandwich, Seafood, Soup, and Vegetarian).
Michael Ellis, Smoked
“Competing in the World Food Championship is a great honor. I look forward to the challenge of competing against the best chefs in the country! I will represent my company and myself in the best way possible. My goal is to win first place and to have a great time doing it!”
How long have you been cooking? I have been cooking in professional kitchens for 30 years, starting at the age of 12.
Are you formally trained/did you go to school? Yes, I am formally trained. I earned my AAS in culinary arts, food service management, and hospitality management in Dayton, Ohio. I have my BA in finance. Being formally trained only gives you the basics needed to really train through experience in the industry.
Have you worked at any other restaurants/Where has your career taken you? Yes, I have worked for many restaurants ranging from corporate to mom-and-pop. I have experience in Italian, Japanese, Vegan, Southern, Low-Country, Mid-Western, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, and Carolina BBQ cuisine.
What is your favorite dish/food? It is impossible to pinpoint a favorite dish because culinary arts are forever evolving and improving. I love to experiment with local fresh products and let my creative mind do the rest. I grow a lot of my own food. The food that I probably eat or prepare most often for myself would be fried rice with spicy chicken stir fry. I love fried chicken and biscuits. I love shrimp and grits. I love tacos. I love sushi. I love fresh pasta with a good fresh tomato sauce. Food brings all people together regardless of their culture, race, sexual orientation, social status, income status, religion, or political status, and the Chef is the conductor. The key is fresh and local. The main ingredient is soul.
Have you won any other competitions/awards/etc.? In every competition I enter, my expectation is to win. I have won many competitions. I have won the sweet and savory competition twice. I am the five-time shrimp and grit champion for Columbia SC Shrimp and Grit Fest. We recently won the Taste of Lake Murray event. I have won many team culinary events dating back to high school and college. I also won the local quail cooking competition with Manchester Farms. I love to compete! I am also a frequent winner of many fantasy football leagues!
What else would you like to share? I am a God-loving family man, a girl dad of 4 girls, a dog lover, and have many lifelong friendships. I also have a grandson coming in December!
Maegan Horton, Blue Marlin
“I’m honored to compete against some of the world’s greatest chefs at the World Food Championships! I look forward to competing again this year and making great relationships.”
How long have you been cooking? I have been cooking professionally since I was 16 years old.
Are you formally trained/did you go to school? Yes, I received my associate’s in Culinary Arts and bachelor’s in Restaurant Management from Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte NC
Have you worked at any other restaurants/Where has your career taken you? Yes, I have worked in a few different restaurants ranging from fine dining to city country clubs to family-run.
What is your favorite dish/food? That’s hard to pinpoint a favorite food. If I had to choose, growing up in the South, I would say a good Southern Sunday supper.
Have you won any other competitions/awards/etc.? Yes, Palmetto Palette
Chris Williams, Roy’s Grille
“It feels amazing to have the opportunity to once again represent Team Lake Murray Country, my restaurant, and my brand at the 2023 WFC. It felt incredible to place in the top ten last year, but this year I’m looking for gold!!!”
How long have you been cooking? I have been cooking since I was 9 years old.
Are you formally trained/did you go to school? No, I did not go to culinary school or have any formal training.
Have you worked at any other restaurants/Where has your career taken you? I have worked in state government for a federally funded food program called the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). I was a nutritionist and lead teacher at a daycare center. Koyo Bearing plant cafeteria manager, British Bulldog Pub, Copper River Grille, Texas Roadhouse, Mel’s Diner, Carolina Wings, Captain D’s, McDonald’s.
What is your favorite dish/food? Seafood
Have you won any other competitions/awards/etc.? South Carolina Chef Ambassador, 5th last year at WFC in the sandwich category.
What else would you like to share? God is good, and He provides.
“We’re excited to send these top 3 chefs to the World Food Championships to represent Lake Murray Country,” said Miriam Atria, President/CEO of CCLMC. “This is an amazing opportunity for the region and for the state of South Carolina. We are thrilled to bring South Carolina’s cuisine to the world stage for a third year in a row!”
Next, Team Lake Murray County will be assigned to their categories and learn about WFC’s EAT Methodology, which is how more than 8,000 dishes are judged and scored at the main event in Dallas. More than 450 teams from 40 states and 10 countries are expected to participate in this year’s tournament, which will feature 10 categories of food.
About World Food Championships
The World Food Championships (WFC) is the highest-stakes food competition in the world. This multi-day, live event culinary competition showcases some of the world’s best cooks who compete for food, fame and fortune in 12 categories (Bacon, Barbecue, Burger, Chef, Cocktail, Dessert, Live Fire, Rice/Noodle, Sandwich, Seafood, Soup and Vegetarian). Each year as Food Sport kicks off in January, teams have to earn their way into WFC by winning a Golden Ticket at a previous qualifying competition, like Taste of Lake Murray. Almost 40 countries and every state in America have been represented at WFC’s main event since 2012.