Making an Army tank on a melon
Pvt. Jessica Fleming, (seated) and Sgt. Ahra Barrera, Soldier culinarians with 501st Military Intelligence Brigade take notes on how to carve an outline of an M1 Abrams tank into a watermelon during culinary display training with 2008 Food Network Challenge Fantasy Fruit Sculpture Gold Medalist Chef Ray Duey during his visit to the Humphreys Garrison Red Dragon DFAC April 20 - May 2.

HUMPHREYS GARRISON - Chef Ray Duey, the 2008 Food Network Challenge Fantasy Fruit Sculpture gold medalist, has brought his skill, experience and dedication to the military to U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys.

Duey, a Certified Executive Chef through the American Culinary Federation is sharing more than two decades of cooking and food carving experience with Soldier culinarians from 501st Military Intelligence Brigade here April 20 through May 2 at the Red Dragon dining facility this week.

"I've brought a ton of recipes and samples of designs for Soldiers to practice," said Duey. "While I'm here I hope to sand off the rough edges of their skills and show ways to enhance a variety of meal preparations."

Duey said with the waiting list for seats in university culinary arts programs across the U.S. that Soldiers are lucky to be able to apply their skills through the Army's food service program.

"While stationed overseas, I encourage everyone to take advantage of all the great Korean food and I admire the dedication of the Koreans who serve in the DFAC as they really seem to raise the bar in their performance here," he said.

During the training, Duey challenged Soldier culinarians with printouts of designs to trace onto fruit and produce.

"I traced a tank onto a watermelon and sculpted slightly under the rind to bring out the drawing from the white part of the fruit," said Pvt. Jessica Fleming, 501st MI Bde.

After using a Parisian scoop to gut the inner portion of the watermelon, Fleming added a final flourish: a small light that illuminated the silhouette of the M1 Abrams tank she'd carved.

Duey explained that in making any culinary team successful, every minute, down to the simplest of details counts when you're preparing food and displays.

"Knowing what everything in the kitchen is called is very important and there were 15 of us on my crew in Los Angeles and not all of us spoke English so I've learned as much Spanish as I could," said Duey. "When we're taking time trying to ask for something as simple as a whisk but we have different names for it, then minutes are lost every hour trying to find the tools to finish the tasks and that quickly adds up to hundreds of pay dollars wasted every week."

Duey not only has toured military installations on land, but has traveled aboard Navy ships and submarines at sea to share his expertise with Navy mess management specialists; at times cooking side by side with Sailors to prepare meals for thousands.

"What I try to do is show everyone that food is the most important part of the mission," said Duey. "I'd rather be out of bullets and out of fuel than out of food because food is something a Soldier can't live without."

Duey said that putting the extra effort into food preparation and making creative displays from fruit and produce raises production and morale.

"Food service isn't the most glamorous occupation that there is, but I hope by showing Soldier culinarians that if they take the opportunities to learn while they are here, that when they get out of the Army, they may have the chance to work for good money in places like Las Vegas because if there was ever a need for people that can do bulk feeding - Las Vegas is your town."

Throughout his career, Duey has volunteered as much as a month a year to teach military culinarians the tricks of the trade; conducting his training with troops at the same times they normally serve.

"Most people don't realize the really tough life our armed forces have and that there are places they must go where enemies are trying to kill them," he said. "The U.S. military is the reason I am free to go where I want, when I want and for me to give back to the men and women who protect my freedom ... well, since I'm too old to fight in wars, this is the least I can do for those who volunteer to keep our country safe.

"When I visit military bases around the world, if I can at least give one Soldier new skills then they in turn will teach other Soldiers and then I'll know I've done something to make their lives and the lives of their Families a little better."

Page last updated Thu April 23rd, 2009 at 02:58