SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Culinary Arts Specialists with the 25th Sustainment Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, competed in and won the U.S. Army Pacific level Phillip A. Connelly Awards Program competition Aug. 30, at the 25th Infantry Division Consolidated Dining Facility "Sustainment Bistro." Soldiers competing were judged on how they prepared, cooked, and served food in a garrison environment to determine which unit has the best dining facility in the Army.
"When you are competing in this competition you really aren't competing against other units, you are competing against the standards," said CW4 Curtis Steineke, the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade Regional Food Program Manager and evaluator for the competition. "The thing that sets units apart from the rest is their attention to detail."
The Soldiers did well in setting themselves apart from the rest of their competitors by serving a menu that was comprised of mainly fresh unprocessed meats, vegetables, and fruits. The meals they prepared not only met the standard, but were comparable to that of a civilian restaurant.
"This has been a great experience," said Spc. Symone Harden, a Culinary Arts Specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 25th Sust. Bde. "In the real world, this palate would be served every day, we can't just meet the Army standard and expect to be successful, we had to go above it."
Harden, who has had experience working in a five star restaurant prior to joining the Army, contributed her skillset by preparing the desserts during the competition. She was asked to prepare desserts that would be served at five star restaurants and was able to complete that task with ease.
"The key in making the pastries that I served is making them colorful and vibrant," said Harden. "As hard as it is to make them healthy, I was able to cut back a lot on processed food and use fresh fruits."
Making it this far into the Phillip A. Connelly Awards Program competition took more than just fresh foods. The entire kitchen staff had to come together as a whole in order to cook the caliber of food that they served.
"Teamwork is the reason for our success," said Sgt. Cyd Leslie, a culinary arts noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command and the first chef during the competition. "We built our shift in a way that encouraged Soldiers to work together fluidly. We wouldn't have made it this far in the competition without every Soldier that we have on our team."
Since winning at the USARPAC level, the Culinary Arts Specialists with the 25th Sustainment Brigade will advance to Department of the Army level of the Phillip A. Connelly Awards Program competition later this year.