Military chefs converge at Fort Lee for 38th culinary training event
March 4, 2013
By Amy Perry
FORT LEE, Va. (March 4, 2013) -- Military chefs have begun arriving for the 38th Annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event that runs here through March 15.
The event began Monday and features military chefs at their finest, providing them with a unique training environment to learn from American Culinary Federation-certified chefs.
More than 200 chefs are scheduled to be on hand for the occasion, and they will compete in more than 500 events before the competition ends next week.
"The purpose of this competition is about sharing, training, and ultimately, bringing back that training material to your respective locations," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Charles Talley Jr., Joint Culinary Center of Excellence advanced culinary division chief and team manager of the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team. "In the end, you benefit the war-fighters -- those Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen -- who get the end result of what you produce."
This year's training event features service members from each branch of the military as well as several international teams scheduled to clash on Wednesday.
The cooking kicks off Tuesday with the Armed Forces Chef of the Year -- the top individual prize -- and 18 military members will be vying for the top honors.
The public days start Wednesday and are jam-packed with events to include table displays, live cooking (student teams, nutritional categories, etc.) and demonstrations for cake decorating and fruit carving.
In addition to the training event's traditional features, it also offers something fresh.
"We have a new event this year -- the Master's Competition," Talley said. "This features experienced military chefs who compete in a hot food event -- it's almost like 'Iron Chef.'"
The Master's get underway Wednesday -- the first public day -- and six chefs are currently scheduled to showcase their skills.
The top award -- Installation of the Year -- has been changed to Culinary Team of the Year, said Talley. Calling the award Installation of the Year wasn't representative of the teams who competed, as the U.S. Coast Guard and other joint teams often compete for the event's top award.
"It's the most prestigious award we give away," said Talley. "There's a big trophy, and it's typically a team who has won a lot of medals. Changing the award name is more reflective of the award."
Talley -- who served as team manager for the winning Installation of the Year team from Fort Bliss, Texas, in 2007 -- said it's exciting to be on the administrative end of the event.
"What I look forward to most is seeing that young military chef come to Fort Lee and see that young chef get trained on multiple skill sets that contribute to their growth and development," he said. "That's my motivation. This event is about molding the future of our respective food programs."
Thinking back to his first competition, Talley said he was amazed when he saw the scope of it all.
"I thought I bit off more than I could chew," he said. "After I saw the different skill sets of the other competitors, and although I thought I had a certain skill level, I didn't know what I was getting into. It opened my mind and made me want to be better. This competition is about training. When you leave here, you leave a little bit better."
While the chefs earn ACF medals, training is the most important aspect of the event, added Talley.
"It's always been a training event," he said. "You can go back to the first year it was executed -- at the end of the day, it's about training. Commands send their respective food service professionals here with the hopes they are going to bring things back to their facilities."