Cooks from the 11th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade Thunderbird Dining Facility served as judges during the United States Army Information Systems Engineering Command cook-off Oct. 3 at the Technology Integration Center and CMET 1 buildings here.
It was by no accident that these Thunderbird DFAC cooks were picked as judges for the taste testing contests.
“When we kicked around the idea of holding a chili and baked goods cook-off, I was thinking how great it would be to use the expert taste buds of actual Army cooks as judges,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Paluzzi, senior signal operations noncommissioned officer in charge, ISEC. “They would also be unbiased because they don’t know anyone from our organization.”
The cooks were asked to judge exotic, savory and hot chili categories as well as pies and cakes, finger food and anything-chocolate dessert categories.
For these signal Soldiers, being asked to judge a contest like this was a welcome change of pace.
“I have been a cook for 14 years,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Macias, 11th TTSB. “I was honored and a little nervous. It’s not every day that someone asks you to be a judge for something like that.”
Between tasting the chili and getting to sample all the desserts, the Soldiers each had their favorite memories from judging the contests.
“The best part was the dessert competition we got to do,” said Sgt. Jasmin Joyner, 11th TTSB. “They were all delicious, and it was definitely hard to pick winners and runners-up.”
Where Joyner focused on the desserts, Macias directed his attention to the main course.
“Getting to taste everyone’s different version of what a chili is supposed to taste like,” said Macias. “It was good for them to all cook the same product and have them all come out a different way. Being a cook for a long time, I thought the different perspectives were pretty cool, especially the hot ones because they were pretty hot.”
The judges agreed that all the foods they tasted that day were excellent, and were happy they got a chance to branch out of their regular routine.
“I have been a cook for seven years,” said Sgt. Joyner. “I was excited for the opportunity to step outside of my normal, everyday realm. It was a really good experience.”
Ultimately, the event went off without a hitch and the winners were crowned. In the exotic chili category, Rudolph Dettler won for his “Ground Gobbler Arizona” chili, while John Kimbell won for his “Vibrant Voluptuous Vegetarian Vittles” chili. For the savory category, Ron Turnidge for his “Three Bean Amigos” chili followed by runner-up Robert Baron for his “Ancient Native” chili. For the final hot category, Kelley Mason won for his “Tomorrows F/X” while the runner-up was Robbie Griego with his “New Mexico Green” chili.
Finally, the desserts category for pies/cakes winner and runner-up was Cpt. Amanda Ayako Willis for her tiramisu and apfel streusel kuchen respectively. The finger foods category was won by Christopher Kelley’s wife for her Snickers cupcakes, and the runner-up was Cpt. Amanda Ayako Willis for her baklava. Since the judges could not come to a decision, the last category was a tie between C.C. Caywood for her chocolate brownies and Denise Johnson for her caramel chocolate chunk cheesecake.
“Actually, I am considering making this an annual event,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Brenda Kadet, command sergeant major, ISEC.
“I received a lot of feedback yesterday requesting this to become an annual event. The event … was successful because it brought our team together and gave our organization an opportunity to re-connect and bond.”