Fort Bragg culinary specialists flaunted their prowess — from deconstructing chickens to perfectly grilling filet mignon in a field kitchen — during a military cooking competition earlier this month.
The soldiers came together from different units across post to represent Fort Bragg in the Joint Culinary Training Exercise at Fort Lee, Virginia, last week. With teams from every Armed Forces branch, it’s the largest military culinary competition in the United States.
Fort Bragg’s team didn’t take home first place, but it has won more times than anyone else since the exercise started in 1976.
Sgt. 1st Class Latohya Robinson, the competition team manager, said she was proud of the team, which was mostly novice, junior enlisted soldiers.
“I’m most proud of watching them — from where they started to where they’re at now,” she said. “Some of those soldiers came in with no experience.”
The competition has been held every year since 1973, except in 1991 during Desert Storm and 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. It showcases the talent of military chefs from around the globe.
Several changes have taken place over the years to align with efforts to integrate all branches of service, including the event’s name and names of competitions.
The team from U.S. Army Pacific won this year, but Fort Bragg’s team has clinched the honor a record nine times.
Soldiers had to complete meals in the following categories: live cooking, Armed Forces Chef of the Year, Student Chef of the Year, Nutrition Hot Food Challenge, Food Displays and Live Demos and Military Hot Food Kitchen Challenge.
Although they can stray from recipe cards when they cook in dining facilities on installations, the soldiers had to stick to the cards for the competition so they wouldn’t jeopardize the nutritional value of their meals.
Teams were timed to complete meals for each category. Robinson said the time limit placed more pressure on the culinary specialists already challenged to flex their technical skills.
Robinson, a 16-year veteran and member of the Army’s first field feeding company — the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command’s 25th Quartermaster Company, 264th Combat Service and Support Battalion — said she mentored each soldier on the team, encouraging them to focus on their core skills.
“Once you get started, you watch the clock,” she said. “I reassured them.”
For their Nutrition Hot Food Challenge Meal, the Fort Bragg soldiers made poached salmon and veggie spring rolls.
In the Hot Food Kitchen Challenge, which simulates a field kitchen, the culinary specialists made filet mignon with a chocolate roll cake and ice cream for dessert.
“I hope our team impressed them,” Robinson said. “It really showed that we went out there and tried our best.”
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