Army cooks at Cordon Bleu College
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEE, Va. (Army News Service, May 4, 2009) -- Soldiers and civilians from around the globe gathered at the Hilton Hotel in Atlanta, April 4, to recognize the Army's finest food service professionals at the 2009 Philip A. Connelly Awards.

Army, Navy and Military Sealift Command personnel watched as the 20 awardees from Army commands across the world took the stage to accept their Connelly awards. The awards recognize dining facilities that exceed Army standards and operate at a level that showcases teamwork, professionalism, quality and service.

The ceremony, held in conjunction with the 2009 Joint Services Excellence in Food Service Awards, was the culmination of an eventful week geared toward honoring the winners and runners-ups of the program. In addition to visiting the World of Coke Museum, touring a winery, watching cooking demonstrations and being formally recognized in front of their peers, 10 of the winners also were afforded the opportunity to receive 32 hours of instruction at Le Cordon Bleu College in Atlanta, Ga.

"The course at Le Cordon Bleu was a lot of fun," said Pfc. Sarah Cash, food service specialist from Fort Lewis, Wash. "I had the opportunity to work with some amazing Army Soldiers and the staff at (Le Cordon Bleu) were professional and very knowledgeable. I can't wait to get back to my dining facility and show everyone the things I've learned."

The Connelly Awards program is managed by the Quartermaster Center and School's Army Center of Excellence, Subsistence, and cosponsored by the International Food Service Executives Association and the Department of the Army.

ACES and IFSEA evaluators travelled the globe between August and December to obtain first-hand knowledge of how Army food-service personnel perform their jobs. Unlike other culinary competitions, evaluators of the Connelly program witness food-service specialists at work during dining facility and field kitchen operations.

Competing dining facilities were judged in the areas of food preparation, taste, nutrition, service and sanitation.

Cooks from the 282nd Quartermaster Company based out of Montgomery, Ala., representing the 143rd Sustainment Command Expeditionary, accepted an award for best overall food service in the Army Reserve category.

"I feel great, I feel like they paid attention to all of the hard work we have put in," Staff Sgt. Amos Finch, a cook for the 282nd QM Co. said.

Judges graded and evaluated the Soldiers on a myriad of criteria ranging from record keeping, menus, cooking procedures, site preparation, and quality of food, both in garrison and field environments.

"You have to set-up the mobile kitchens to specifications in a tactical way like you would do in a combat situation," said Staff Sgt. Terry Bateman from the 282nd QM Co.

For the cooks of the 282nd QM, part of the uphill battle was adhering to the 21-day menu set forth by the Army and budgets, which limits the types of foods they can make for the Soldiers.

"Sometimes it is hard trying to prepare something that pleases everybody," said Spc. Markeada Smith, 282nd QM Co. "Sometimes the budget is not there and you have to substitute things in order to make a complete meal and make it taste good. Many times it is not about what the plate is but the people that are cooking that can mean the difference between a Soldier liking or disliking a meal."

Even though the unit only has six qualified cooks, the rest of the unit played a major role in their victory by providing supplies and assistance whenever needed to help the cooks out, Smith said.

"I feel overwhelmed with honor," 1st Sgt. Joseph Lightner, 282nd QM Co. said. "They are major self-starters and self-motivators. This victory represents every Soldier in our unit and the numerous hours everyone spent making this happen. We look forward to being together for a while."

Other Philip A. Connelly Award Winners were:

Aca,!Ac U.S. Army Reserve Runner-up: 298th Maintenance Company, Altoona, Pa.

Aca,!Ac U.S. Army National Guard Winner: 1032nd Transportation Company, Virginia Army National Guard, Gate City, Va.

Aca,!Ac U.S. Army National Guard Runner-up: Charlie Company, 422nd Signal Battalion, Nevada Army National Guard, Las Vegas, Nev.

Aca,!Ac Small Garrison Winner: 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Dining Facility, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Aca,!Ac Small Garrison Runner-up: 11th Signal Brigade Dining Facility, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Aca,!Ac Large Garrison Winner: 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment Dining Facility, Fort Jackson, S.C.

Aca,!Ac Large Garrison Runner-up: Camp Normandy Noncommissioned Officer Academy Dining Facility, Grafenwoehr, Germany.

Aca,!Ac Active Army Field Kitchen Winner: 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Aca,!Ac Active Army Field Kitchen Runner-up: Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 402nd Brigade Support Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

(Sgt. Eddie Reyes is a member of the 204th PAD and Matthew Montgomery writes for the Fort Lee Public Affairs Office.)