Culinary delight
Pfc. Yeon Yi, Fort Carson, Colo., Culinary Team, carefully details a cowboy hat made of tallow that was entered in one of the table display categories of last year's Annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event. Yi was one of 200 military members who competed in 2013. Organizers expect the same number of competitors this year despite a more streamlined event.

FORT LEE, Va. (January 30, 2014) -- Organizers hope to build on those attributes for the 2014 edition even though it will be five days shorter.

The competition, scheduled for March 9-13 at the Post Field House, has been compressed due to budget constraints, but expectations for high participation remain, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 -- Charles H. Talley Jr., chief, Advanced Food Service Training Division, Joint Culinary Center of Excellence.

"Last year, we had 205 competitors," he said. "We may have more this year. I think we?'re probably going to at least meet that number."

Despite the shortened time frame, Talley said changes will be minor from a competitor's perspective. He said three events -- the knowledge bowl, knowledge bowl exam and ice carving -- have been suspended for this year's competition. None are required for the team competitions.

Additionally, a few other events have been scaled back. "We will streamline some of the live cooking events," said Talley.

The biggest change concerns the culinary team of the year category. This year, the event will limit the number of teams who can compete.

"In the past," said Talley, "we've had as many as 22 teams. We'll have to cap it at 12 because of the compressed schedule."

The competition hosts still intend to accept as many teams who want to participate, said Talley.

"We won?'t turn any team away that wants to come," he said. "Those who don't make the cut of 12 can participate in individual events, but they won?'t be eligible for the team competition."

From a spectator perspective, the changes to this year's competition will offer more consistent public viewing. In years past, public viewing of events was spaced out over a two-week period.

"Our hope is that the public will come out each day (all five days offer public viewing)," said Talley. "I really believe, looking at some of our historical data, that we'll see higher numbers each day during that five-day period. It will be very consistent."

One of the more popular public events, the military hot food cooking category, wherein teams prepare three-course meals for ticketed diners in a fine-dining atmosphere, will be enhanced.

"This year, we will feature three (cooking) platforms rather than two," said Talley. "Each day, the public will get to see three separate teams who will offer three separate menu options."

Talley said the changes made this year reflect the new budgetary realities that have taken hold over the past year. He said his staff was presented with a challenge to cut back the event but not at the expense of affecting the spirit of the competition.

"Our new fiscal environment requires streamlining across the board," he said."Our focus is still to better impact the strategic initiatives at the local level. It's a bottom line for us. When the competitors leave here, we want them to return to their units and make a positive impact."

The Annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event is in its 39th year. It is a showcase event but one that also strives to enhance skills and increase the camaraderie and professionalism of those in the food service career field.

Page last updated Thu January 30th, 2014 at 00:00