2013 Military Culinary Arts Competition

By C. Todd Lopez for army.mil

Steamed opakapaka, scallops, profiteroles and stress were on the menu at the 2013 Military Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee, Va.

The competition, now in its 38th year, pits military food service professionals from all services against themselves and each other to show off their best cooking skills.

Inside the field house here where the competition was held, two mobile Army containerized kitchens, stainless steel boxes, like trailer homes outfitted with everything needed to cook hot meals for an Army in the field, stood against one wall.

On the other side of the field house, a row of 10 identical kitchens with large digital timer clocks on the refrigerators stood ready to host a variety of young military chefs in competition, each eager to show judges from the American Culinary Federation that they were on top of their game.

“What they can expect here is enhanced professionalism, enhanced culinary skills, more developed techniques in the arts of food preparation and food sanitation, and the credentials that will allow them to be recognized in the private industry,” said Lt. Col. Luis A. Rodriguez, director of the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence at Fort Lee. “Also, they are given the opportunity to expose themselves outside the garrison environment, within a competitive environment.”

Over at one of the mobile field kitchens, Soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., prepared to serve meals to 60 visitors to the competition, visitors who would actually pay for their meals, and who would eat as paying customers. Nearby, another identical field kitchen was manned by Soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas.

Spc. Kollin Mullins, with the Fort Hood team, served as expeditor on a six-person team of servers.

“I make sure the plates get out to the customers in a timely manner, and at the same time make sure all the components are on the plate,” Mullins said.

Coming out of the Fort Hood kitchen was a squash soup, a grilled and marinated halibut fillet, and a layered dessert with orange chiffon cake, mango mousse and raspberry gellee.

When customers were seated, and awaiting their meals, Mullins stood near the kitchen waiting for food to be plated and verified that it looked good before handing it off to his team of servers to move out to the diners.

Each server, he said, had two tables. “If one of them gets down, or somebody is messing up, or needs help, if another one can help they go help,” he said.

Mullins is a 92G, or food service specialist, himself, and does more than just expedite. Last year he was at Fort Lee to participate in the ice carving competition, he took home a bronze medal. But he cooks too, especially when he’s back at home and part of the Fort Hood Culinary Arts team that helps train other 92Gs there to do things beyond what they do in the dining facility, known as a DFAC.

“We train the Soldiers on the culinary side of being a 92G, not just working in the DFAC,” he said. “We train them to do better stuff.”

Being at Fort Lee for the culinary arts competition puts everything he knows to the test, Mullins said. At the competition, he and his team can show off their A-game.

“This is a competitive training event,” he said. “A select few get to do this, and it’s a great thing to be here and do what we do. It shows not only what you can do in the Army as a 92G, but that there is more to being a 92G.”

At Fort Lee, Cullins said, there is also an opportunity to learn, from nearly everybody he encounters.

“You can go from the highest ranking non-commissioned officer or officer, down to the lowest private, and you can learn anything from any one of them,” he said. “Nobody knows everything, but everybody knows something.”

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  • Sam

    This is a great example of highlighting our service members in an MOS and letting them showcase and develop their skills above and beyond our normal operational demands. Fantastic use of talent!