ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala.-Energy. Enthusiasm. Experience. These are a few of the things Scott Laird brings to the table as he was selected as the depot's executive chef last month.

"This is one job that keeps you busy," he said. "Aside from working with my hands, I like to keep moving. There is a fallacy that cooking is just about chopping and mixing, he notes. "But, there is so much more. Presentation, style, and taste are equally important."

A veteran of the United States Air Force, the 41-year-old gentleman has travel extensively and worked with several master chefs during his career. "I started working under Mama Rosa, a four-star chef in Italy," he added. His profession also includes working with other chefs, to include Derin Moore, a 2000 hot-food Olympic champion.

But, his initial cooking experiences were influenced by his mother, who was a caterer. "You could say she was a chef by her own right. She would start with a meat or vegetable and a few ingredients and deliver a fantastic meal," he said.

The few burn marks on his hands serve as physical evidence of his youthful cooking occurrences, but the gleaming expression on his face indicates passion for a career path he adores.

What can customers expect'

While he looks forward to offering the workforce delectable cuisines, some of the items he plans to add to the menu are steaks, grilled salmon, and lots of desserts. "I love spices and being able to enhance flavors. For most of my meat dishes, I make a special rub using cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. On the other end of the spectrum, I love baking."

But when it comes to utensils, the most essential item in the kitchen is his chef's knife. "I couldn't do anything without it. From chopping to scooping and opening cans, it is one of the most versatile tools I own."

After renovation of the Community Activity Center, which is expected to reopen in 2009, Laird's intentions include offering cooking, cake-decorating, and 30-minute preparation meal classes to the workforce.

Crowds not a problem

Laird's formal education includes the Culinary Institute at Virginia College, where he discovered the importance of time management. "You've got to know when to grill and remove the meat, all while keeping it hot, flavorful, and tender, then out to the customer."

No crowd is too big or too small, he noted. As a banquet chef at Dunwoody County Club in Atlanta, Chaselake Country Club in Hoover, and the Anniston County Club, he sometimes served dishes for 300-plus clients at various charity events and banquets. "I'm excited about serving the men and women who make up this great installation," he said.