By Karl Weisel, U.S. Army Garrison Hessen Public Affairs OfficeDecember 19, 2006
Cooks from throughout U.S. Army Europe left Hanau Dec. 15 inspired to enhance the quality of culinary fare at dining facilities throughout the theater.
Forty-five Army chefs from as far away as Ansbach and Italy spent two weeks at the John F. Kennedy Dining Facility on Fliegerhorst Kaserne Dec. 4-15 honing their skills during the U.S. Army Garrison Hessen-sponsored annual Culinary Arts Workshop and Competition on behalf of the Installation Management Command-Europe.
"I wanted to come so that I could learn and teach everyone else in my dining facility who couldn't come to spread it around and make our dining facility better," said Spc. Deekeya Byrd, a cook at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield Dining Facility. "This experience was wonderful. I think every cook in the Army should have this experience.
"There are so many different ways to change the appearance of food served in the dining facilities," added Byrd, explaining that treating cooking more like an art form rather than simply "throwing it out there" was a valuable lesson of the workshop.
"What stood out was the hands-on training with the NCOs. We had a fabulous group," she said.
For Sgt. Omar Duran, a cook at the 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery "Deep Still Bistro" Dining Facility on Idar-Oberstein's Strassburg Kaserne, learning about classic meat cuts was a highlight. "The training was very educational - all aspects of food service. ... We can take back what we learned to make the appearance in our dining facilities better."
"We basically gave them about 20-25 classes," said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Jenkins, a trainer and judge, who normally manages the Dragons' Den Dining Facility for the 29th Support Group in USAG Heidelberg. The workshop, which culminated in a competition, featured a wealth of reading materials, live cooking demonstrations, training in knife skills and more.
"I relate it back to when I was a private," said Jenkins. "At that time I was thinking about getting out of the Army. Then I was sent to a culinary workshop and I realized there was another side to cooking - what I call the glamour side of cooking. It influenced me to change my mind about leaving the service, and 23 years later I'm still here.
"We've got some real talent here," added Jenkins, as he made his way through the competition entries. We want to show Soldiers that there is another side to cooking. Hopefully they'll take this back to their dining facilities and then train their fellow cooks."
Jenkins said he could see the growth during the two weeks. "From the first day you'd see the shock and awe of 'Oh my God, I'll never be able to do that,' to what you see on the competition tables now."
"I'm taking away everything from this workshop," said Pfc. Kristian Clay, a Wiesbaden cook, "cuts, how to store and conserve food - how to make stuff I've never made before. I'd give the training a 10 on a scale of one to 10."
Manuel Gomes, USAG Hessen food program manager, said a team of the 12 best Army chefs from the workshop and competition will be selected on Dec. 22 to represent IMCOM-Europe at the Army-wide workshop and competition in Fort Lee, Va., to be held next February or March.
A total of 11 gold medals, 17 silvers and 30 bronzes were awarded Dec. 15 for items on display at the Hanau competition. The 29th Support Group's Pfc. Leia Heeter earned best in show honors for her confectionary centerpiece.