DAEGU, South Korea - Two culinary specialists from 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command participated in the 42nd Annual Military Culinary Arts Competition and Training Event at Fort Lee, Virginia, March 4-9. The 10-member Korea Culinary Arts Team consisted of culinary specialists from units across the Korean Peninsula and demonstrated food service excellence in various categories.

By competing in every category, including military hot food challenge, student skills and chef of the year, Team Korea earned three silver, three bronze and four commendable medals.

Except for the live cooking category, in which chefs were given one day to prepare dishes based on an unknown ingredient, each team could plan and decide the dish they would make in the competition. For the mobile kitchen category Team Korea successfully made choux of shrimp and pickled vegetables for appetizer, filet of beef tenderloin for entrée and tiramisu for dessert.

"I participated in junior chef, student team, mobile kitchen and table display categories," said Pfc. Maeanne T. Buyat, Culinary Specialist, 75th Medical Company Area Support, 19th ESC. "We were given roughly an hour for each category which was a little tight, but it was an opportunity to develop my military occupational specialty skill competency and I felt honored to compete in a world-wide competition."

Team Korea practiced for 10 weeks on Camp Walker prior to the competition, explained Buyat. Since there are constant missions in the Korean Peninsula, it is not easy to pull a soldier from their unit for several weeks. So, it was challenging for Team Korea to even fill the team. It was stressful and overwhelming for us because first, we were tired from jet-lag and second, we had comparatively little time to perfect our dishes after they arrived in the States.

"Even though we had very limited time to work on improving teamwork and training members, Team Korea capitalized on our practices," said CW3 Kevin D. Konken, Command Food Service Technician, 19th ESC. "Our very talented members who specialized in various cooking skills contributed to the team's success."

The importance of culinary arts competition lies in that though it may seem non-essential, competing in this event promotes the culinary staff's excellence in food service which then enhances the readiness of units.

"Team Korea performed much better than many people, including the team members, had expected," said Konken. "I think they excelled at the challenges and were surprised by their achievements."

The 19th ESC culinary specialists will now use the lessons learned from the national level competition to provide a higher level of food service to 19th ESC units and aim for even better results in the next competition.