Exceeding standards by enhancing dining experience

You’ve heard it, you’ve sang it: “They say that in the Army, the chow is mighty fine.”

That’s a phrase from a cadence heard throughout the Army, and at dining facility 1 here, the Soldiers go above and beyond to truly make the chow fine.

The DFAC staff is comprised of food service specialists, Soldiers and non-commissioned officers, from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and 916th Support Brigade. According to Sgt. 1st Class Nathaniel Barthell, DFAC 1 facility supervisor, their goal is to take the Army standards, perfect them, and exceed them. Their mission is to constantly improve; incorporating creative menu selections and presentation of both food and appearance is a major focus.

“We take the standard Army meal, then use civilian recipes to enhance the meal,” Barthell said.

Updating the appearance of DFAC 1 is the top priority of Assistant Manager Staff Sgt. Cynthia Tate.

“My focus was to modernize the menu and to give the food more of a restaurant feel,” Tate said. “Initially we began with enhancing the menus. Then the focus became changing the appearance of the building from a military feel to a relaxed, homey atmosphere.”

Another major focus is restoring the craft of baking, which Tate considers a lost art.

“Baking is what initially defined us; we worked on changing the direction of food service from having everything pre-made to making it from scratch,” Tate added.

Baked goods also add visual appeal to the menu, said Tate.

Night bakers prepare fresh baked goods and pastries for the following day as well as sandwich loaves for the custom sub bar, burgers buns, hot rolls, and cold salads. Everything is baked from scratch and some items allow for a creative outlet, said Spc. Reggie Khemvisay, a baker.

“I have an art background, and what we do makes me feel like an artist,” Khemvisay said.

The facility serves different themed meals each day with a biweekly revolving menu. The theme for Monday is Italian meals, Mexican meals on Tuesday, Asian inspired food on Wednesday, Soul Food on Thursday, and Cajun themed cooking on Friday. Cooks use the weekends to test recipes.

Special meals are prepared at least once a month. In the last two quarters, events that required a special menu included: Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, and the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday observance. The DFAC team uses these meals to try new flavors and complicated recipes, and not just with the entrees. Main dishes, sides, salad bar, and desserts are also themed to match the holiday or event. Some of the more popular creations include steak-wrapped asparagus, roast steamship round and seafood pasta stuffed lobster.

The Soldiers of DFAC 1 take their job as food service specialists seriously and they have great pride in the work they do. Whether it’s Spc. Carlos Love basting a rack of ribs, Spc. Tracy Moore making his secret sauce for buffalo wings, or Spc. April Pelay, spending the night working on the detail of a lace-butterfly for her cupcake – the love that these Soldiers put in to their work is evident to those who have the pleasure of stepping into the kitchen.

“The Soldiers go above and beyond, not only to meet the mission, but to give the kind of loving touch a grandmother would,” Tate said.

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