To further hone their culinary skills and inspire food service Airmen at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., to think outside the box when it comes to cooking, Thunderbolts at the Ray V. Hensman and Falcon Inn Dining Facilities created the Chef Mentoring Program.
“The Chef Mentoring Program is an opportunity we offer to the men and women who work at Luke’s dining facilities,” said Master Sgt. Adam Salonish, 56th Force Support Squadron dining facility NCO in-charge. “Airmen work with a local chef where they develop their culinary skills for two weeks. It allows them to see how a professional chef runs their operation and a chance to get trade secrets and tips to improve the quality of the food they prepare.”
One of the Airman who participated in the program recently is Airman 1st Class Jennifer Wascher, 56th FSS food service journeyman.
“I was honestly nervous to be in the program,” Wascher said. “Before the military I didn’t know much about cooking besides the basics. I didn’t know how I would feel about being a part of the civilian world again, but I felt honored to have been chosen.”
Wascher was assigned to the Birt’s Bistro and Bookstore Restaurant in Surprise, Ariz. where she experienced a unique atmosphere of food culture.
“I had never heard of the Birt’s Bistro before I was assigned there and was unaware of what they did for the community,” Wascher said. “The restaurant offers job experience to the handicapped, which I think is great. They also provide lunch and dinner to some summer schools, several elderly programs in churches and on top of that, they have to run their own restaurant.”
While learning a new aspect of culinary arts, Wascher gained skills pushing her further into her career physically and mentally.
“I learned cooking techniques on how to make purees for people that aren’t able to chew food very well and how to make fancy salads for catering and other useful techniques,” Wascher said. “The chef mentoring program allowed me to go on some of the restaurants food runs to provide food to their customers which was honestly heartwarming. It was a fun experience for me and if I had the chance to go back, I would in a heartbeat.”
Wascher was one of the five airmen who had participated in this ongoing program.
“I believe it is a great program that allows our airmen to gain knowledge outside of our technical school and on the job training,” Salonish said. “We are going to keep branching out to different restaurants and facilities and continue the growth of our airmen’s wide variety of skills.”