Stewart captures Knowledge Bowl trophy
March 1, 2012
FORT LEE, Va. (March 1, 2012) -- A Jeopardy-style quiz event closed the third day of the 37th Annual Military Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee Monday evening.
Five teams had earned the right to compete in the Knowledge Bowl where participants earned points by answering progressively harder questions in categories related to cooking gadgets, rare ingredients, recipe ratios, facility management and more.
A four-member squad from Fort Stewart, Ga., won the contest. Other competing teams included Fort Hood, Texas, Fort Campbell, Ky., the Pentagon -- Joint Base Myers-Henderson Hall, and the Coast Guard.
With the cheers and shouts of his Fort Stewart teammates echoing in the background, Spc. Jamieka Elliot described the win as the perfect payback for countless hours of studying in the months leading up to the culinary competition. "It was three to four hours a day at work and at home," he said. "I don't think any of the teams took the book knowledge part of this event lightly. With that in mind, it really feels great because we edged out some really great competitors."
The other members of the Fort Stewart squad were Spc. Jacqueline Canidy, Pfc. Aaron Vegh, Pfc. Christopher Marion and team alternate, Spc. Will Lewis.
Simply qualifying for the Knowledge Bowl is a significant accomplishment, noted Chief Warrant Officer 4 Russell Campbell, Joint Culinary Center of Excellence Training Division chief and coordinator of the overall culinary competition.
"On Saturday, we kicked off the competition with a knowledge exam -- a required event for any team that wants to compete for the grand prize of installation of the year," he said. "The top scores in that event determine who will compete in the Knowledge Bowl."
The upfront knowledge test is important for another reason as well, Campbell noted. It sets the learning precedent of the competition. A big part of the annual culinary event is to encourage young student chefs and apprentices to pursue the knowledge and higher learning that's a must for a professional chef.
"This is way more than just competing and winning medals," Campbell said. "It's about learning and developing as a professional. Whether you're a younger chef or an older chef, it's about growing the profession. Student skills, learning how to plate, flavor profiles and textures -- just everything we do is based on that foundation."
Campbell said he hopes that observers of the culinary competition walk away with a different perception of food service personnel. The profession has taken enormous steps forward since those long-gone days when kitchen workers were considered uneducated and unskilled.
"It's true; a lot of the items being prepared this week wouldn't necessarily be something that training units would see at the dining facilities and field kitchens, but they demonstrate the art and imagination required in this profession," Campbell said. "What we do here lends to the perception of us as military cooks and chefs. It's more than a trade. Our chefs are professionals with a lot of passion and the dedication to do this job right."
One of the competitors from Fort Hood, Pfc. Sunbar Ranabhat, put it another way as his team awaited the start of Monday's Knowledge Bowl. "The expectations are high, but our commands have supported us and given us all of the resources we need to succeed. This is the moment when we're all supposed to be optimistic about winning and a little nervous about our individual performance, but in the end it's all about pride in what we do. If we feel it, we can accomplish anything."