FORT GORDON, Ga. (April 29, 2014) -- There's an old saying, "the way to a man's (or woman's) heart is through the stomach," and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Erica Nowells was eager to prove it true.
Fort Gordon hosted its third annual Soldier and Family Customer Appreciation Day April 29 at the Gordon Catering and Conference Center. It was the Fort Gordon food service staff 's way of showing appreciation for its customers. Attendees were treated to a food show highlighting a vast array of samples, all free of charge. This year's theme was "Fueling the Force."
"I wanted to show everybody that we appreciate their support and really want them to see us in the dining facilities where a lot of people don't think you can get this type of food," said Nowells, an installation food service technician at the Fort Gordon Logistics Readiness Center.
Hundreds of guests mingled and wandered around the North Ballroom tasting generously portioned food samples from 35 food vendors.
Military chefs from the award-winning 35th Signal Brigade Culinary Arts Team impressed guests with live cooking demonstrations serving up shrimp scampi, risotto and banana foster. Sgt. 1st Class Victor Bell, his wife, Bianca, and their daughter, Victoria, were among the first to sample the banana foster.
"I am completely shocked," Victoria said. "It's the perfect blend of creamy and sweet."
The chef behind the concoction, Sgt. Donavan Burks, said seeing the guests' reactions are what drive him to excel in his work.
"Knowing they're excited to taste the food and seeing their faces after they've tasted it is my favorite part," Burks said.
For Sgt. Lance Smith, chef behind the shrimp scampi, the food show was about more than showing appreciation.
"I hope they see that the U.S. Army culinary specialists love what we do, and know we put our all into everything we do every day," Smith said.
The show was also an opportunity to show the command how food service in the military has evolved while dispelling misconceptions people might have of dining facilities.
The Army dining experience has come a long way in terms of offerings and production, Nowells said. The focus is no longer merely feeding the troops, but instead fueling them with a variety of nourishing options. One way the military does this is through its use of food brokers like World Marketing Company. The company represents food vendors vying to bring their products into military DFACs.
Tony Daning, world marketing director of U.S. Military Sales, enticed guests with some of those products. He served up ham, egg and cheese vegetable frittatas, whole grain French toast, fish tacos with Alaskan salmon and pico de gallo, turkey enchiladas and imitation crabmeat salad.
"The fact that the civilian sector is going with more healthy entrees, it's kind of permeated itself into the military sector," Daning said. "Young people are seeing all these items in the school systems, so when they come into the military, they look for something better than what they got in the schools."
An estimated 5,000 troops eat at the four DFACs on Fort Gordon daily, and those troops have the power to make a change in what is served.
"If we get good feedback from the food show and they say specific items they would like to see in the dining facilities, we can get with our private vendor partners to actually get those things into our master menu catalog to order to serve our Soldiers," Nowells said.
To make specific requests, troops are encouraged to leave feedback by using the Interactive Customer Evaluation found on the Fort Gordon website at www.gordon.army.mil.