Culinary Competition Completes 25th Year
FORT LEE, Va -- The pots have been scrubbed, the kitchens cleaned and the doors shut.
An awards ceremony officially marked the end of the 25th annual U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee March 8.
The judging brought together about 300 military cooks from the Army and Marine Corps, representing approximately 25 installations worldwide.
When it was over -- among other categories and awards, -- Spc. Erica L. Parenteau, representing I Corps, Fort Lewis, Wash., was named Junior Chef of the Year. Staff Sgt. Mark A. Morgan, from Fort Stewart, Ga., walked away with Chef of the Year honors, and a team from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky., came out on top of the Field Kitchen category. In addition, Fort Bragg, N.C., was named Installation of the Year.
The first culinary competition began in 1976 and has grown over the years. Sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation, all judging is performed by strict ACF standards.
The purpose of the competition, according to officials, is to improve the overall quality of Army food service and training for soldiers, provide recognition for excellence in culinary arts, and provide incentives for competitive food service programs within major commands.
This recognition included a number of gold, silver and bronze medals, certificates, engraved plaques and trophies.
"The opportunity for individuals to expand themselves when they come to this show is tremendous," said Walter "Spud" Rhea, executive director of the American Culinary Federation and certified master pastry chef.
"There are exhibits by people who have never done competitions before, and there are works done by people who have been doing this for a very long time. They have done it to the very highest standards. There are people out there who could compete against the best in the world," Rhea said.
Soldiers and Marines competing for Junior Chef of the Year honors were expected to prepare, cook, and serve a set menu comprised of a soup, main plate that included a starch and a vegetable, and dessert. Competitors used a standard Army recipe card provided to them the day of the timed event.
Junior Chef of the Year competition was held Feb. 28.
Competitors vying for Chef of the Year were required to plan, prepare and serve a three-course menu for four persons based on a "mystery basket" of ingredients placed at their individual cooking stations. Menus had to be nutritionally adequate, well balanced, and coordinated (size, shape, color, texture, etc.). This was also a timed event and was held Feb. 29.
Twenty, four-person teams competing in the Field Cooking category worked in a field environment and prepared 50-portion meals within a four-hour time period, operating in a mobile kitchen trailer.
The menu, judged by a three-person panel, consisted of pork schnitzel with gravy and mushrooms, rice, salad, pineapple upside-down cake, cornbread, soup, coffee and juice.
The field competition was held March 1-3.
Finally, soldiers competed March 6 and 7 for static display honors at Fort Lee's Post Fieldhouse.
Displays included dinner plates, cakes and pastries. Also judged were a variety of displays including mobile field kitchens, nutritional awareness, and live cookery demonstrations by chefs from Great Britain's Army School of Catering.
After judging, the static displays were open for public viewing March 6 and 7. The concluding awards ceremony followed the next day.
Many of the individual winners may be selected as members of the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team. The team travels extensively and competes in international culinary competitions, to include the Culinary Olympics held in Berlin, Germany, every four years.
Chef of the Year: Staff Sgt. Mark A. Morgan, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Junior Chef of the Year: Spc. Erica L. Parenteau, I Corps, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Field Competition: 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
Best Exhibit Table in Exhibit Hall: Fort Bragg, N.C.
Installation of the Year: Fort Bragg, N.C.
Best in Show: Sgt. Nathan J. Read (culinary showpiece), U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army
Junior Chef: 1 Gold, 8 Silver, 5 Bronze, 1 Honor/17 participants
Chef: 0 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze, 5 Honor/17 participants
Contemporary Cooking: 7 Gold, 6 Silver, 5 Bronze, 5 Honor/26 participants
Field (Teams): 0 Gold, 36 (9) Silver, 16 (4) Bronze, 12 (3) Honor/76 participants/19 teams
Static Displays: 12 Gold, 26 Silver, 78 Bronze, 103 Honor/297 total displays
From the Army News Service, dated March 14, 2000.