Soldiers from the 11th Tactical Theatre Signal Brigade participated in the 11th TTBS Chef of the Year Competition Oct. 16-17 on Fort Huachuca.
The Chef of the Year event measures a Soldier’s technical and tactical skill at his trade and as a Soldier. Not only do Army cooks need to know how to efficiently and effectively provide much-needed food to Soldiers, but they must be proficient in their warrior tasks and drills.
“The competition is open to any cook assigned to the 11th TTSB,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Robert Smith, chief food operations sergeant for the 11th TTSB and event coordinator. “First they must win a Chef of the Quarter event,” he said.
The event lasted two days, with the first day opening with the competitors in their dress uniforms for a formal board. Senior noncommissioned officers examined the Soldiers’ uniforms and asked them questions about Army knowledge.
After the board, the Soldiers took a 50-question test, focusing on food service. The final event of the day put the Soldiers’ hands-on skills to the test, forcing them to disassemble and reassemble an M16 rifle as quickly as possible.
Day two put the creative-thinking and problem-solving skills of these 92G Soldiers into action. The competitors were presented with random ingredients they would use to combine and create a meal. The unit coordinated with Cochise College so the cooks would have a full working kitchen with everything needed to prepare their dishes. The cooks were judged by senior NCOs as well as by chefs from Cochise College.
Presentation, proper procedures and taste were a few of the criteria. Although the cooks worked as a team of two, they were graded individually.
Spc. Krystal Lang, last year’s Chef of the Year winner, said this year’s event was more involved with the whole-Soldier concept with the added weapons test-and-knowledge quiz.
She was partnered up with Sgt. Edward Rodriguez.
Not an ordinary dining facility, or DFAC meal, Lang’s team’s menu included items such as grilled chicken stuffed with vegetables and cheese with asparagus wrapped in bacon.
After a stressful and grueling day of cooking, the meals were presented to a panel of taste judges, to include Lt. Col. John Donaldson, 11th TTSB rear provisional commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. David Archuleta, 11th TTSB rear provisional command sergeant major.
Sgt. Jose Aguayoponce, from 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, was a bit nervous during the cooking portion of the event.
“At first I wasn’t sure how it was going to be, but the cooking part was my favorite part,” said Aguayoponce. “This was the most intense competition I’ve been a part of ,and I encourage all Soldiers to do this,” he said. “A lot of Soldiers get stuck in a rut thinking they will only work in a dining facility,” he said.
According to Aguayoponce, the competition part lets a cook really show off their culinary skills.
Although at the end of the day, all the competitors put forth maximum effort, there could only be one NCO Chef of the Year and one Soldier Chef of the year. Scores were tallied from all events, and the names of the winning NCO and Soldier will be announced soon during a special ceremony.