Schweinfurt chef earns top European honor
October 17, 2011
SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- If you've ever enjoyed a meal at the Ledward dining facility, waited in line for the trademark Mongolian grill there, ordered up a custom breakfast omelet or simply took a leisurely long lunch with a cup of coffee and a slice of lemon meringue pie, you might owe a small bit of thanks to the hard work of Staff Sgt. Robert Szatkowski.
Szatkowski, part of the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, is the administration Non-commissioned officer in charge at the Ledward dining facility. He recently received that thanks in the form of a prestigious award. On Sep. 13 he was named the culinary NCO of the year for the U.S. Army in Europe.
"This shows that if you come in day after day dedicated to your job, it does get recognized," said Szatkowski.
He was nominated for the award by the 44th ESB's parent unit, the 7th Tactical Theater Signal Brigade. After a preliminary evaluation, he represented his DFAC, brigade and battalion before an official board in Heidelberg last month. The hard work paid off, and he'll return to Heidelberg on Oct. 25 to collect an Army Commendation Medal and a certificate of achievement for the honor.
"It feels great to have an award-winner on our team," said Sgt. 1st Class Brenda Lewis, the overall manager of the Ledward DFAC. She calls Szatkowski 'Sergeant Ski.' "He brings cohesion and motivation to the rest of our Soldiers. Ski sets a great example."
Much like any success story, Szatkowski was quick to point out that his excellence would not be possibly without the excellent support of his wife. "Her hard work at home allows me to work hard here," he said bashfully.
The honor was awarded based on Szatkowski's superior knowledge of all aspects of the culinary arts--from hygienic food storage to practical food ordering and stocking techniques to creative menu design. "I was evaluated on the whole broad spectrum of foodservice knowledge," said Szatkowski.
His award comes on the heels of the DFAC's runner-up finish in the Philip A. Connelly awards and four Schweinfurt chefs nabbing 9 medals in a DoD-wide competition.
"We just keep rolling in the awards right now," said Szatkowski, beaming. But he isn't resting on the laurels of the title of best NCO in Europe's dining facilities. A seasoned worker in the kitchen, he knows that your success only runs as far as your next meal service.
"Me, Sgt. 1st Class Lewis and Staff Sgt. Dozier [assistant DFAC manager] work hand-in-hand to make sure this place runs smoothly," Szatkowski said before excusing himself from the interview to get ready to prepare Thursday lunch. His dress uniform now bears an extra ribbon bar, but his hard work seems only to have been magnified.