EL MONTE, Calif. — They are usually the first soldiers to wake up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night. They spend their days in hot kitchens and cold refrigerators, all so their fellow service members can enjoy a hot meal. Recently, one unit of Army cooks got its share of the glory.
The 137th Quartermaster Company participated in the highest level of culinary competition in the Army, Saturday, March 2. “Only four Army Reserve units make it to the Department of the Army level of competition,” said Master Sgt. Keith Russ, one of the evaluators from the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, who flew from Virginia to judge the competition.
Unlike cooking competitions on television, the Connelly Competition is not held in a head-to-head style or on a movie set. Instead, a team of judges fly around the country over the course of many months to each participating unit’s location. The 137th was the last competitor in the Army Reserve category to be judged. Though the results will not be revealed until this summer, a mini awards ceremony was held giving recognition to deserving Soldiers.
The competition is named for Phillip A. Connelly, who made many improvements to military food services in the first half of the 20th century.
The competition is not based solely on taste and presentation of food. The participating units are also judged on sanitization, safety, command support, leadership and field set up.
“We evaluate the whole tactical set up,” said Russ. “I was very impressed to see them take a park and turn it into a field site.”
The 137th built their encampment in a park in South El Monte. The camouflage nets concealed their tents somewhat, but the aroma of freshly made Chinese food gave away their location.
The judges instructed the units on which menu items to prepare; however, the 137th managed to find ways to add personal flourishes to their presentation. To add to the Asian atmosphere, the food service Soldiers added fortune cookies, chopsticks and Asian garnishes.
At the end of the day, the evaluators presented awards to the unit. They also presented an individual award to the Soldier they thought had the greatest impact on the culinary success of the unit.
Staff Sgt. Gregory Sovick, 29, received the individual award. He not only served as non-commissioned officer in charge of the 137th’s set up, but is a qualified culinary specialist as well.
While he appreciates the recognition, Sovick said the credit is not his alone.
“All of the Soldiers deserve this recognition for their hard work.”