ERFURT, GERMANY - Culinary masters from 50 nations united in Erfurt Oct. 18 for the opening ceremony of the World Culinary Olympics.

Thousands attended the event bearing witness to the parade of nations and the Olympic commencement.

"Walking through the tunnel was exciting," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Justin Reed, U.S. Army Culinary Arts team captain. "I would compare it to the real Olympics because everyone was yelling and screaming for their team."

For the first time in its history, USACAT includes members of both the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy. Traditionally, USACAT has selected only the top U.S. Army Soldiers for competition. As the U.S. military moves toward a joint training environment, USACAT team managers were able to select the best culinary talent in the military.

Audience members cheered and clapped as each nation appeared in the convention hall to represent their country. At a close second to Germany, the United States heard some very loud cheers.

"Not many people get the chance to represent their country the way we did," said Spc. Valine Vukich, USACAT team member. "It's something to be proud of and it was a wonderful experience."

Hosted by the German Chefs Association, the World Culinary Olympics is the largest culinary exhibition in the world. The event is host to 1,100 chefs from 50 nations divided into regional, national and military teams. The national teams alone will prepare more than 880 meals daily.

"Being in the Olympics is exciting because you get to be around the best chefs in the world and a vast range of experiences - it's exciting, said Sgt. Billy Daugette, USACAT member. "It gets you excited about your career and the community you work in."

USACAT members have been training for this competition since early this year at Fort Lee, Va. The team has worked on perfecting their dishes as well as the flow in the kitchen in the hopes that this week they will earn gold for their performance.

"I believe the team has trained hard and is poised to do great things in the competition," said Master Sgt. David Turcotte, USACAT team advisor. "I'd be surprised if we weren't in the hunt for the championship."