Devil chefs at Fort Bragg learning to be exact
February 11, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - For three weeks, Pfc. Jason Gerhardt spent most of his workday helping two other Soldier-chefs build three life-size sea turtles swirling around a white column of coral - chocolate terrapins and tallow coral - with the intent of making people hungry.
The 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper and his teammates hope to capture best of show at the Army's two-week Culinary Arts competition at Fort Lee, Va., later this month.
It was exacting work, said the Staten Island, N.Y., native, but well worth it. The centerpiece made its debut Feb. 1, at the Fort Bragg Vendor Food Show and Culinary Arts, at the Fort Bragg Club remove here.
Gerhardt also worked on some of the art-as-food appetizers, set around the centerpiece in what their brigade food advisor, Chief Warrant Officer J. D. Ward, called "a buffet service that you would do for 15 to 20 people, very traditional."
Though everything was edible, none of the gelatin-coated food was eaten because it was entirely for display.
Spc. Kegan Bailey, also from the 82nd's 1st Brigade Combat Team, will join Gerhardt as an apprentice on the Fort Bragg Culinary Arts Team when they travel to Fort Lee for the Army-wide competition between installations. From Keego Harbor, Mich., Bailey put his efforts into an intricate pork platter that included vegetable salad, pork terrine with Swiss chard and cream, suckling pig wrapped in a jerk seasoning, pork pAfActAfA en croute, snap peas, turnips and beans.
"The challenge is to get it perfect. We have to do it over and over again," said Bailey, echoing the advice of two advisor-judges, with German accents who are renown and retired chefs who donated their time to assist the Soldiers.
Of the appetizers, retired expert chef Roland Schaeffer said, "One should look like the other, not different shapes. They should be exact."
The culinary arts world is small - Schaeffer was an advisor to the Army Culinary Arts Team when Ward was a member of the team, competing in the Culinary Arts World Cup and Olympics.
"It's not easy to tell you that you are not good," said Shaeffer, speaking to the high standards that he and Gunther Heiland expect of the competitors. "That's difficult, but young people need to know they have to work hard for success. They spend 50 hours on a project, and it's hard to hear they need another 50 hours."
How did Fort Bragg's team do at the food show'
"They did fairly well," said Schaeffer, "but they still have some work to do before they go to Fort Lee."
The food display was only one part of the multi-faceted competition that Fort Bragg chefs will face later this month. They must also cook for a large group using a containerized field kitchen, and participate in category-specific cook-offs, said Ward.