'Vanguard' Soldiers revolutionizing food service
October 7, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Specialist Darryl D. Fisher's idea of starting small when learning how to cook at 12 years of age was preparing an entire Thanksgiving dinner, complete with sweet potato pie.
The food service specialist, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, said he spent most of his childhood in the kitchen learning the secrets of preparing flavorsome cuisine and desserts from his mother, Sharyl, and his aunt, Francine.
Specialist Fisher said that because food has always brought his Miami Family together, he has had plenty of practice learning how to prepare meals for large groups. Transitioning into helping to feed a brigade's worth of Soldiers, therefore, the food service specialist said, wasn't difficult.
Specialist Fisher is but one of many skilled Vanguard food service specialists who are working each day at the 4IBCT dining facility to revolutionize the way Soldiers experience food service.
Many of the Soldiers share Fisher's passion for food and customer service and said they want Soldiers to give them an opportunity to please their palettes.
"The majority of fourth brigade has been deployed and they got spoiled by me when they were down range," said Sgt. Paul E. Harris, a native of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands assigned to Company E, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4IBCT. "The spoiling [doesn't] stop."
"The same way I fed you down range is the same way I'm going to feed you here--[but] it's going to be twice as [good]," Sgt. Harris added.
Sergeant Maurice M. Owens Sr., manager of the 4IBCT dining facility, said the first way he and his Soldiers are working to revolutionize food service is by creating a divergent dining facility experience for their customers.
"We're the only food source [in the 4IBCT brigade combat team complex]," Sgt. Owens said. "What we want to do is create a culture that even if you had [major food vendors on site], you still [would] want to come here because of the quality of food we're giving you."
Sergeant Owens said his vision for the dining facility is to create a restaurant-like atmosphere where variety is the key ingredient that keeps the clientele coming back for more.
For starters, the dining facility manager said, the word "bars" was stricken from the language his food service specialists use to refer to the unique serving areas in the facility--those areas apart from the main line and short-order areas. The Soldiers now call the specialty serving areas "revolutions."
Monday through Friday at breakfast Soldiers can partake in the Waffle Revolution, the only made-to-order Belgian waffle station on Fort Stewart, complete with eight different topping options. The food service specialists also serve up Americanized home-style cooking such as rotisserie chicken and meatloaf every Monday at lunch at the Vanguard Market revolution.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Vanguard Soldiers prepare Outfront Breakfast Bowls, with choices of scrambled eggs, grits, sausage and bacon. And at lunch on the same days, Vanguard D's Fish and Hushpuppies are served.
Wednesday's specialty offerings include Fish & Grits at breakfast--a meal combination including freshly fried cod, grits, cheese grits and cheese biscuits--and the Stir Fry Revolution at lunch.
Sergeant Owens said he's most excited about the Vanguard Fried Chicken revolution served at lunch on Fridays. Soldiers can select fried chicken with light - or dark-colored meat, mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuits--the same foodstuffs that are served at fried chicken fast food joints.
To top it off, Sgt. Owens said live music will be played during the lunch meal every Wednesday.
"Our Soldiers deserve the best, [and] they'll get the best," Sgt. Owens said. "When it's said and done we will be the best dining facility on this installation."
Sergeant Owens said that he's also working to revolutionize the culture found within the ranks of food service specialists. Mentoring Soldiers to get them out of the mundane main line and short-order attitudes will lead to better food and better service, the dining facility manager said.
"The attitude starts from the top--the attitude starts with leadership," Sgt. Owens said. "These Soldiers are 19 to 24 years old, fresh out of their advanced individual training--they have no idea about this [military occupational specialty]."
"We've lost a passion in food service, and in this dining facility we're going to get it back," Sgt. Owens added.
Soldiers like Spc. Janiece L. Williams, an El Paso, Texas, native assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4IBCT, said they are growing in the atmosphere, which rewards out-of-the-box thinking.
Specialist Williams said that her leadership stresses putting the same amount of energy in presenting the food well as ensuring that the food tastes good.
The food service specialist is in charge of the Vanguard Express, a breakfast and lunch revolution located past the main entrance, on the side of the dining facility. Specialist Williams and her coworkers prepare specialty breakfast sandwiches in the mornings and a variety of sandwiches, side salads and short-order menu items for lunch.
The revolution is designed with the Soldier-on-a-mission-mentality, where Soldiers can walk in and grab what they want if time for meals is cut short by the missions at hand. The meals are packaged in attractive take-out containers that restaurants offer.
"I just like seeing people enjoy what I do," Spc. Williams said. "I like them to enjoy looking at something [that] looks pleasing."
Sergeant Harris agreed.
While serving as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the action bar--the serving area where food is prepared before the Soldier's eyes--Sgt. Harris said he mentors his Soldiers on the importance of garnishing their products.
"Most people … eat with their eyes before they eat with their mouth," Sgt. Harris said.
Specialist Fisher, who works under Sgt. Harris at the action bar, said that besides appearance and taste, customer service is paramount. In his off-time, Fisher said he enjoys working with customers who employ his emerging catering business.
"I love to interact with people," Spc. Fisher said. "I love meeting people and… getting to know where [they] are from."
While he's willing to give the best to Soldiers and his catering customers, Spc. Fisher said there's one thing that he will never provide--that is the list of ingredients to his special recipes for barbeque sauce and meat rubs.
Specialist Fisher did divulge one ingredient from his rub recipe, however.
"I would say most people don't use it, [but I use] oregano," Spc. Fisher said.