FORT RILEY, Kan. - The 2009 1st Infantry Division Culinary Team trained for months preparing for the 34th annual U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee, Va., and the work paid off with a second place finish.

This year's win is the division's best finish ever in the Installation of the Year competition; a big improvement over last year's last place finish.

"The judges were highly impressed with the team overall and said they learned from watching how organized and professional our team consistently performed in all 14 categories," said the team's captain, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Travis Smith, Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Infantry Division.

The division began building the team last summer and trained some of the members as far back as September. Many of the original team members were unavailable for the final team due to deployments, and most of the Soldiers started practicing in early January. Some joined only a week or two before the start of the competition.

Still, Smith said he isn't happy with second.

"Our team gave a first-place performance in every regard. No team trained harder than the Big Red One and no one had more spirit," said Smith. "I have had the privilege to serve with great teams throughout my career and have won this competition five times. Every year the teams get better. While we didn't win the overall in 2009, this is the finest team I have ever been a part of," said Smith.

The 82nd Airborne Division team finished first again and has become the team to beat in the competition.

"From the beginning of the competition everyone noticed our skills. We came strong, and we gave them a good fight. It does not matter what the score tells us, we know we are winners," said Sgt. 1st Class Mayra Hernandez, 1st Brigade, 1st Inf. Div.

COMPETITION WINNERS

The Fort Riley culinary arts team earned nine gold, 16 silver and four bronze medals

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Travis Smith earned two gold and four silver, including the awards for Best Exhibit in Show (Cat. A, Cold Platter), and Best in Class - Contemporary Cooking (Cat. K)

The Fort Riley team also earned second place in the Installation of the Year event, scoring a 340.44. Fort Bragg earned first place with a score of 345.12.

Sgt. Douglas Humphrey was among 31 candidates to tryout for the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team. The team is a U.S. National Military Culinary Team that competes at local, national and international culinary competitions. In 2008, the team earned 13 gold medals in the World Culinary Olympics and placed second overall.
Humphrey will join nine others to represent the team in 2009-2010 competitions, including the 2010 World Culinary Cup in Luxembourg City.