1st. Lt. Emily Klinkenborg
and 1st Lt. Brandy Adkins
311th Signal Command (Theater)

FORT SHAFTER -- Every October, culinary service members from across Oahu try out for a position on the Hawaii Culinary Arts Team: Joint Team Hawaii.

The judging panel consists of previous Hawaii culinary team members, and the tryouts last about two days. With a total of 10 positions, made up with a mix of different branches of service, stakes are high.

Spc. Anne Nicole Yapcengo, 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, meets with judges to critique her prepared dish.
Spc. Anne Nicole Yapcengo, 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, meets with judges to critique her prepared dish.

Spc. Anne Nicole Yapcengco, culinary specialist, 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, was selected to be part of the team last October and headed to Fort Lee, Virginia, for the Army Culinary Arts Competition, March 2-10.

During the seven-day competition, Yapcengco and her team won the silver medal for Student Skills Team, Student Skills Team of the Year, and Installation of the Year. She also was the gold medal runner up for Student Chef of the Year and won a $1,500 scholarship to Stratford University, in addition to other accolades.

"I never imagined that I would be on a culinary team," said Yapcengco. "Cooking was a hobby of mine when I was younger. I loved making meals for my two younger brothers when they returned from school and for my parents when they came home from work."

Yapcengo, 22, is a native of the Philippines, but calls Los Angeles, California, home. She enlisted into the U.S. Army in July 2015 and headed off to her first duty station in Hawaii.

When not in the field with the 307th ESB, Yapcengco's place of duty is the K-Quad Dining Facility located on Schofield Barracks.

Spc. Anne Nicole Yapcengo, 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, focuses on preparing her main course for the judging event of the competition.
Spc. Anne Nicole Yapcengo, 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, focuses on preparing her main course for the judging event of the competition.

"I just loved the food carving displays at the DFAC" said Yapcengco. "There would be swans made out of apples or roses made out of carrots on the serving line, and I wanted to learn how to make them, so I self-studied."

Yapcengco's hidden talent first surfaced when her DFAC manager asked her to enter in the 2016 Philip A. Connelly competition at Wheeler Army Airfield. The Connelly competition is designed for food service personnel to showcase their abilities in a field environment and Yapcengco was deemed an excellent competitor by many.

Although her unit had a field exercise during the date of the competition, her 307th ESB leaders fully supported the opportunity for Yapcengco to challenge herself and encouraged her to compete.

"I am very hard on myself. It is one of the biggest challenges I face when training for competitions" said Yapcengo. "I am thankful for my team because we are one big happy family, and everyone supports each other."

Yapcengo and the team are gearing up for the American Culinary Federation Nationals Competition in Orlando, Florida, by perfecting their individual dishes and platters, July 9-13.

Winners from Nationals will go on to represent the U.S. at the World Olympics Championship for Culinary Arts in Switzerland.

Yapcengo said, humbly, when asked what her favorite dish is to prepare, "Honestly, it's nothing fancy. I actually love to make fried rice. It reminds me of my Filipino and Chinese culture, and it reminds me of my family."

(Editor's note: Klinkenborg works with 311th Sig. Cmd. Public Affairs, and Adkins works with HHC, 307th ESB, 516th Sig. Brigade, 311th Sig. Cmd.)