Plating for Perfection
Sgt. Matthew Flemister has been a U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team member since 2004. He is currently competing with the team against 13 foreign military teams during the World Culinary Olympics, Oct. 18 - 23, in Erfurt, Germany. Photo by Sarah Trier, Fo... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ERFURT, Germany (Oct. 21, 2008) - The World Culinary Olympics steamed up Oct. 20 as the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team participated in the Hot Food Competition, serving up the Gold for the U.S. military.

The team's performance was outstanding, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Justin Reed, USACAT team captain.

"Everyone covered each other and stepped up to the plate when someone else needed help," said the U.S. Coast Guard competitor.

During the hot food competition, the team served up restaurant-style three-course meals to 150 waiting diners in 2.5 hours. The number of diners increased dramatically when USACAT tickets sold out only 30 minutes after the ticket office opened on Monday. Diners for the other competing military teams began requesting the U.S. meal and some succeeded.

"We served at least 175 diners yesterday," said Reed. "I thought the ticket sell out was pretty exciting," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert Sparks, USACAT team manager. "Our kitchen had to be prepared for customers right away so Sgt. Flemister started plating first-course meals 15 minutes prior to the start in order to accommodate the people waiting in the dining area."

The team's menu included seared tuna, smoked trout and poached salmon served over a salad of baby greens dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette with lemon asparagus, seaweed salad and apple horseradish relish and spiced glazed pecans for the appetizer. For the entrAfAe, herb-infused turkey breast with mushroom stuffing, country sausage, jus lie, sweet potatoes, candied walnuts, cooked pears, green beans wrapped with ham caramelized pearl onions and a cranberry Johnny cake was served. And finally dessert included a chocolate mouse crunch cake served with apricot, macerated cherries and chocolate dAfAcor dressed with apricot and cherry sauce.

"It's comfort food - who wouldn't want to eat it'," said Reed. Empty plates returning to the kitchen proved that USACAT had the recipe for success. The team's road to Gold wasn't without complications, though. Since German military kitchens use steam as the main cooking component, condensation began forming, at times causing it to rain in the kitchen, according to Reed.

"There were some issues coming up in the kitchen that weren't expected and that the team couldn't really help," said Sgt. Billy Daugette, USACAT member. "It just showed the experience of the team that we were able to overcome."

The condensation left the pastry crew, in particular, in a pressure cooker situation because it ruined the desert motifs as well as caused a safety concern for the entire team.

"If it wasn't for the larder guys coming to the pastry side we would have been in trouble," said Spc. Valine Vukich, USACAT pastry chef. "We got through it because we worked together."

The team doesn't have much time to celebrate, however, since the cold food preparation, cooking and preservation portion of the competition is back-to-back to the hot food event.

"Our chances are really good at winning the entire competition since we won Gold in hot kitchen," said Sparks. "I don't think we have it in the bag - this means we have to be perfect in cold food and get a high Gold to close the door."

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See related article: "Military culinarians compete in Olympics"