STB Soldier, chef serves up some stiff competition
August 2, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. " One Soldier’s creativity and passion for cooking has driven her to excel and sweep the I Corps Special Troops Battalion Dining Facility’s “Chef of the Week” competition for the month of July.
That Soldier, Pfc. Jaliesa Barber, a food service specialist, has won the “Chef of the Week” competition a total of seven times since it started three months ago.
The competition puts the week’s top two chefs " chosen based off the week’s performance " up against one another, in which they must create three dishes from a random collection of ingredients. They must make an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert in one hour.
The dishes are then judged by the DFAC’s senior staff for their creativity, presentation and taste.
Staff Sgt. Arthur Campbell Jr., the STB DFAC manager, said that since the competition has begun he has noticed a drastic change in the entire unit, but especially in Barber.
“She has improved so much since she first arrived to the unit,” Campbell stated. “She has grown so much, not only as a chef but as a Soldier as well.”
Barber, an Atlanta, Ga., native, had won the previous three competitions and said she has no intentions of relinquishing her title anytime soon.
“I work really hard in the kitchen so, to not only be nominated but to win as many times as I have, it makes me really proud,” Barber expressed.
Barber is not the only one proud of what she has accomplished in the past few months; her former squad leader, Cpl. Raymond Trader, also a food service specialist with I Corps STB DFAC, is extremely proud of his former Soldier.
“They took her away from me but I still live vicariously through her and the fact that she works this hard,” Trader explained. “I am kind of sad that she is not in my squad anymore, but I will take that one on the chin and hope she does this good wherever she goes.”
Barber said she has learned a lot from not only Trader but everyone in the unit.
“I try and listen to what everyone has to say and watch how everyone does things,” Barber said. “I pick and choose different things from different people and apply what works best for me.”
Oddly enough, the learning tools that have most helped Barber improve her craft haven’t been her triumphs; they’ve been her losses.
Barber said she has lost a few competitions and that the feeling of defeat did not sit well with her, so she kept pushing herself harder and harder.
“I have lost my share of competitions and, when I lost, I lost badly,” Barber proclaimed. “But, each time I lost I would reflect on what I did wrong to make sure I did not repeat the same mistakes the next time around.”
Barber said she would take the criticism in stride and would use it to not only improve on her weaknesses, but also as a motivational tool.
“All the negative marks I would get after a competition really helped me to become a better chef,” Barber said.
Trader said that Barber has done just that while at the same time really leaving her mark on the competition.
“She is the first Soldier in the short history of this competition to ever sweep a month,” Trader said. “That is a huge honor - something she should be very proud of.”
After the last competition, in which Barber earned the sweep for the month of July, she said she was just getting started with reaching her goals.
“I have a lot of goals, and this competition not only gives me the opportunity to reach some of those goals, but it helps me to move forward to my other goals,” Barber said.
For accomplishing what she has in the month of July, Barber has earned herself a four-day pass to be used when she chooses, and she is also automatically entered into the I Corps STB-DFAC “Chef of the Quarter” competition.
It’s uncertain yet whether Barber will win, but it’s evident that in this field she’s staked her claim.
“I have so much confidence in my abilities as a chef,” Barber said. “I plan on winning every competition from here on out.”