Old Guard Soldier cooks up prize-winning creation

An Old Guard Soldier walked away with a silver medal at the 2008 U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition in Fort Lee, Va., on Friday.

Spc. Jeffrey Vaughan, a cook with the 529th Regimental Support Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) submitted Draco, a 2 A,A1/2 foot long Chinese Dragon made of white chocolate into the centerpiece category of the competition.

The competition, which is open to all military cooks and all Department of Defense civilian cooks, is held each year in March. This year, teams and individuals from as far away as Germany, Korea and Hawaii entered the competition.

Entries in the competition were judged based on presentation, composition, correct preparation and arrangement.

For centerpieces, the judges were looking for extra criteria - movement, body shape, proportion and quality. Movement was one of the most critical elements of the entries, said Vaughan. "I had the dragon twisting - his body and tail," said Vaughan. "It's shaped like a rollercoaster, with spikes. I have it twisting and moving around."

Vaughan worked on the project at the dining facility at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. throughout February and the beginning of March. After working as a ration supervisor during the day, he would stay behind after hours to work on his project; he also came in on weekends to work on the dragon. He took a class in sculpture at a local college to learn design techniques. He used what he learned in creating the dragon.

When the competition began on March 3, Vaughan ran into a setback - 182 of his fellow Old Guard Soldiers were at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., training to earn their Expert Infantry Badge. As a cook, he was needed at Fort A.P. Hill to support the EIB candidates and the cadre there.

Vaughan's leadership worked out a compromise - he would be able to go to Fort Lee for a day to bring his entry to the competition, then return to Fort A.P. Hill to the EIB site the next day. Later, when the project won a silver medal, Vaughan, his platoon sergeant and company commander went to Fort Lee for a day to receive recognition.

Sgt. First Class Rogerlee Newton, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the regimental dining facility, said Vaughan's hard work over the past few months is typical of the Soldier. "He's an outstanding Soldier - very dependable," she said.

Newton is recommending Vaughan for an award for his achievement.

Next year, 529th RSC hopes to send a team of Soldiers to the culinary competition. "We wanted [Spc. Vaughan] to compete in the full competition, but because of EIB, we couldn't send him for the two full weeks," said First Sgt. James Deal, first sergeant of 529th RSC. "Next year we plan to send a small team consisting of an NCO and two Soldiers."

Vaughan is looking forward to the competition next year. "Hopefully next year I'll be able to go there for the two weeks so I can bring home as many medals as I can - hopefully 6 or 7," he said.

Page last updated Wed January 28th, 2009 at 11:22