Military's promising young chefs compete for top honors
March 8, 2012
FORT LEE, Va. (March 8, 2012) -- Fourteen young military cooks competed for the title of Armed Forces Student Chef of the Year during the largest culinary arts competition in North America here Feb. 26- March 7.
Drawing more than 300 participants from military organizations the 37th Annual Military Culinary Arts Competition is often the first of its kind for new members of the food service.
Participants from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the Coast Guard tested their skills while developing, preparing and serving a single entrée to the panel of judges for tasting and critiquing.
The Student Chef of the Year competition is designed to increase interest and test the level of student chef's skill in live cookery and build the basic understanding of cooking fundamentals.
"It is an entry-level competition and emphasis is placed on basic-level skills and whether they are correctly executed," Chief Warrant Officer 4 Russell Campbell said. "The best student/apprentice level chef is recognized at the awards ceremony as the 'Armed Forces Student Chef of the Year.'"
The title of Student Chef of the Year earns the competitors recognition for years to come, as their name is on a plaque within the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence. Winners also earn opportunities to compete at other American Culinary Federation Events.
Last year's winner, Air Force Staff Sgt. Ghil Medina, competed in the ACF Western Regional Conference and the ACF National Convention in the student chef category.
The competitors this year realize the importance of the event, and appreciate the training aspect to the competition, as their critiques come with invaluable tips to improve their culinary skills.
"I was very nervous and anxious to compete," said Pfc. Nathan Renuald, Team Hawaii Student Chef of the Year contender. "I didn't quite know what to think since this is my first competition. But we've practiced this so many times the routine has become second nature to me."
The judges offered a few tips to improve elements of his dish and then announced he'd earned a gold medal.
"I've won a gold medal and it's awesome," he said.
Team Korea's student chef competitor said she was concerned about time-management. The 95-minute event is broken into prep, fabrication, plating and clean-up.
"Everything went well until the end," said Pvt. Chainisha Williams. "I realized I was running out of time and I forgot something on my menu, but I earned a bronze medal anyway," she said. "This is a great experience and I know that I can use what I learned this year and come back next. For my first time competing, I feel like I did well."
Medals for the events were announced as the competitors were judged. Out of the 14 chefs competing, four gold medals, three silver medals, six bronze medals and one honorable mention were awarded. The Student Chef of the Year winner will be announced at the awards ceremony 10:30 a.m., Friday at the Lee Theater.