‘Cooking for Real’ Goes Green
June 16, 2011
FORT LEE, Va. - Sunny Anderson, host of Food Network’s “Cooking for Real” show, visited here and Fort Bragg, N.C. to show America that behind every great Soldier is a good meal. These visits also allowed her to look back on her time in the military, celebrate those in uniform and show why food is often the glue that holds military families together.
Through this special, Anderson, a former U.S. Air Force broadcast journalist, wanted to highlight that food preparation in the military is not “slinging hash.” With her production crew in tow, she undertook a whirlwind tour to see how military food service professionals are trained.
She began her personal and patriotic journey at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence here May 16-17. Her goal was to showcase the great work of the multi-service culinary instructors and students.
At JCCoE on the first day, Anderson observed advanced culinary students being tested on a three-course practical exam. The class the students were participating in is an intense hands-on program designed to improve the overall skills of an experienced cook. The 25 service members, who represented all branches of the military, had 2.5 hours to complete their meal before being judged by the instructors.
She gave words of encouragement to the students as they chopped, sliced and diced their way through the test. As each student finished, their creation was displayed for grading. The instructors sampled the dishes and also provided scores for presentation. Anderson eagerly grabbed a fork and tasted the assignments, commenting on the quality of the cuisine and lending some professional critique. All the students passed their exam, not letting the added presence of a Food Network chef distract them from their mission.
“They knew they had to focus on their practical exam, so the film crew was the least of their concerns. They are professionals,” Master Chief Petty Officer Justin L. Reed, noncommissioned officer in charge, Advanced Culinary Skills Training Course, said. “It was a great experience and I’m glad that Sunny got to see that the military creates fine cuisine and that we have actual chefs.”
After the taste test, she was given a tour of the entire school. It is now the home of four of the five branches of services’ basic food training programs and conducts all branches’ advanced training programs.
The final day started early as Anderson arrived at the Field Branch training site, where Soldiers were learning the bread and butter of their jobs - cooking for service members in a deployed environment. Advanced Individual Training students were readying the mobile and combat kitchen trailers to cook breakfast as part of their familiarization training.
Anderson talked with Soldiers and posed for pictures throughout the morning as her cameramen moved between the trailers filming the Soldiers in action and conducting interviews. Once the breakfast of bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy was ready to be served, she took her place in line to sample the field rations.
After eating a healthy portion of the “chow,” she noted that it was completely different than when she was in the military years ago. Anderson said the quality of the field rations and the preparation of them had really improved.
The final stop for the crew in the development of this special, provided a history lesson on food service in the military. Narrating the tour, Luther Hanson, curator, U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum, provided an in-depth presentation of rations throughout the history of the Army.
He took them through displays containing hardtack (a simple flour cracker) and whiskey rations, and explained the modern Meal, Ready-to-Eat while old Army training films on how to eat the “new Type C ration” played on a monitor in the background. The film crew spent a couple of hours taking in the wealth of information displayed in the various exhibits.
Finishing up the day’s filming, members of the crew commented on their visit and how their experience differed from their perception of military food.
“Everyone on the crew was thoroughly impressed with the level of dedication and learning at Fort Lee,” Matthew G. Kells, producer Concentric Entertainment, said. “It is amazing to think that the basics of food service, the rigors of cooking in the field and the intricacies of fine dining can be taught with a consistent level of excellence and be part of the same program.”
The special will air July 2 at 10 a.m. and again July 4 at 6 p.m. on the Food Network channel. Check the Food Network’s website, http://www.foodnetwork.com/cooking-for-real/index.html, for updates on the show.