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Chef at Wyndham Peachtree wins prestigious cooking award

Competitive cooking hadn’t been high on Chef John Kerkeslager’s priority list until this year. The last contest he’d entered was a quarter century ago, as a tenth grader taking food preparation classes in Lebanon, Penn. The competition was fierce and Kerkeslager came up with dishes including Seasoned Chicken Parmesan and Braised Celery Hearts that he thought were pretty good. The class instructor disagreed. Young John finished sixth in a field of six.

“That stayed with me for awhile, and whenever opportunities to compete came up, I sort of blew them off,” Kerkeslager said.

When word of IACC’s Copper Skillet competition came around, the chef fully intended to remain on the sidelines. Until, that is, his bosses at Wyndham Peachtree Conference Center offered a different opinion. He was strongly encouraged to enter. Basically the GM told him he had to. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a fun experience and he enjoyed the style of competition. The chef who finished last as a tenth grader is now the United States Copper Skillet champion and represented his country March 24.

John Kerkeslager journey to the kitchen of the Wyndham Peachtree was unconventional. He is a former Army cook, not the typical stepping stone for a culinary chef. He was stationed in Germany. It may have not influenced his cuisine but definitely influenced his work ethnic and organizational skills. He and his wife Tanya have a son, Victor and a daughter Marelle. You may experience yourself the many delectable dishes this top chef serves up to his guests.

For more information call 770-487-2000 or visit


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