FORT LEE, Va. -- Attracting more than 300 competitors and featuring more than 650 judged events, the 37th Military Culinary Arts Competition is sure to sizzle this year at Fort Lee.

The competition, which features individual and team challenges in a variety of categories, brings together military members from all branches of the Armed Forces in this hand-to-pan competition. Some of the most highly sought-after awards are the Armed Forces Chef of the Year and Installation of the Year.

Main events include the field cooking competition, ice carving and student team skills, where competitors will showcase their knowledge of cuts, chops and preparation techniques.

"We continue to cultivate the competition each year as its reputation grows not only within the military culinary community but the gastronomic population at large," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Russell Campbell, chief, Advanced Food Service Training Division, Joint Culinary Center of Excellence. "This competition is important to military personnel because it helps them sharpen their basic culinary skills while continuing to expand their training and level of professionalism. Here, they will get the opportunity to display and showcase their talents to not only their peers, but the general public as well."

JCCoE is part of the U.S. Army Quartermaster School, Combined Arms Support Command. The QM School trains and educates Soldiers, Civilians and members of other services and nations in quartermaster skills and functions.

"This event is more than just a competition; it's ultimately a massive training event," said Campbell. "The chefs participating will also attend cooking demonstrations and classes to improve their skill sets, which they will then implement back in their units and organizations."

Debuting this year are some exciting new live competitions such as melon carving and cake decorating.

The event has evolved over the years to replicate the school's joint training environment. That evolution continues with the enlisted aide of the year event. This category was previously opened to only Army personnel, but is now a joint service competition. This demanding event consists of four phases: a hot food challenge, uniform assembly challenge, leadership board, and a written exam.

Also new this year, there will be an international competition Feb. 29 serving up a taste of global cuisine from four countries -- the United States, Germany, Columbia and Canada. Representing Team USA will be Master Sgts. Mark Morgan and Jesus Camacho, enlisted aides to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After continued rave reviews from the public, the field cooking competition will once again take place within the Post Field House. A limited number of guests will be afforded the opportunity to experience the five-star quality food for $4.55. Each day, Feb. 29 -- March 7, teams will square off and be responsible for preparing and plating 75 high-quality meals, which will be available to ticket holders. Tickets are very limited, and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 11 a.m. each day. Tickets will not be sold in advance.

The competition is open to active-duty members of all services, Department of Defense Civilians, and U.S Army Reserve and National Guard personnel. The American Culinary Federation sanctions the competition. ACF personnel and representatives from the World Association of Chefs Society serve as judges. Medals received from federation entries can be used toward chef certification.

Some of the Army teams competing will be representing Fort Hood, Fort Bliss, Fort Drum, Fort Bragg, Korea, Hawaii, the Pentagon, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Joint Base Lewis-McCord and the Reserve component. Teams will also be participating from the Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard.

The public is invited to view the competition Feb. 29 -- March 7 at the Post Field House. And for those who can't make it here in person, the competition will be broadcast live on Facebook every day at http://www.facebook.com/Army.Culinary.

"The show has it all; ice sculptures, pastries, seafood, wild game and amazing centerpieces made of everything edible. From aiolis to zabaglione, you will see it here," Campbell said.

Page last updated Thu February 9th, 2012 at 00:00