By Becky SteedFebruary 19, 2009
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Feb. 19, 2009) - There's a faint, appetizing aroma wafting from the kitchen of the commanding general's house that hints at a delicious meal about to be served. But for one noncommissioned officer, it's the sweet smell of success.
Sgt. 1st Class David Montag is the head chef and senior enlisted aid for Combined Arms Center Commander Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV. When important guests visit the general - such as foreign presidents, ambassadors or the Secretary of Defense - Montag is in charge of bringing the event together.
It's vital to be detail oriented, Montag said, and to know how to multitask.
"I have to be able to do more than one thing at a time," he said, "especially in the kitchen when I have a five-course meal to put out for the president of Uganda. There's no room for error in this position. Whatever comes out of that kitchen represents me and the CG, but also the Army. We want to leave a lasting impression on them."
Montag's "clients" have included former President George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, actors Robert De Niro and R. Lee Ermey, and members of the Florida Marlins and the New York Yankees baseball teams, to name a few.
"My house is turning into a shrine of me posing with people," he says with a wry smile.
While he's received numerous "job offers" from the CG's guests, he hopes to stay with the general and continue on to Caldwell's next assignment with him.
"I see me gaining a lot of experience working with him (Caldwell)," Montag said.
He added that the general, Stephanie Caldwell and their children would consider Montag "part of the family," seeing as he spends a large part of the day with them, understands their dynamic and has their favorite meals memorized.
"If I make shepherd's pie for him and his family, he'll be happy for days," Montag said.
Montag's favorite dish to create is one that he hasn't made yet, because it's a challenge.
Preparing meals for certain guests can prove to be a challenge too, he said, depending on meal restrictions for personal or religious reasons.
"It's a constant struggle to meet everyone's likes and dislikes, but I seem to pull it off," he added.
In his own household, Montag said his wife Candace "isn't allowed in the kitchen," but sometimes, with odd work schedules, he has just enough time to prepare a quick meal for them and their two children.
He has served 10 years in the Army as a chef, but the first military move his family experienced was only 18 months ago from the Washington, D.C., area.
"I didn't originally think I would be in this long, but the right doors at the right time have opened up," he said.
Montag encourages young Soldiers to always take advantage of opportunities when they are available.
Not very many Soldiers know the opportunities that are out there in the military for food service specialists, he said.
The chef offered some food for thought to his fellow service members.
"We're looked at at all times, not just while in uniform," Montag said. "We'll always be judged. You've got to be professional."