By Sgt. 1st Class Heather A. Denby, 28th Public Affairs DetachmentApril 11, 2019
WAIOURU MILITARY CAMP, NEW ZEALAND -- "The Army runs on its stomach, everyone knows that," said New Zealand Training and Doctrine Command chief of staff Lt. Col. Tim Marsden, during his opening remarks at the awards ceremony for the 42nd Annual Roy Smith Memorial Culinary Competition held April 8-10, 2019 here. "It takes an incredible amount of energy to prepare and serve fine dining, but you all have taken it to the next level by choosing to be judged on how you've done."
Seven U.S. Army culinary arts specialists flew over 4,500 miles to be part of the contest.
The group, commonly referred to as Team Hawaii, is assigned to 25th Infantry Division and 8th Theater Sustainment Command, out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
The competition was designed to honor the life of Lance Cpl. Roy Kenneth Smith, a New Zealand Army chef who was tragically killed in an accident five years into his military service. A large amount of funds were donated from the community to honor his memory and portions of those funds were used to create the concept of the new competition in 1976.
The first interservice competition was held between the Royal New Zealand Navy and the New Zealand Army in 2000.
This year competitors included chefs from the Australian Defense Force, Joint Logistics Command; teams from each branch of the New Zealand Defense Force; as well as the team from Hawaii.
"This is the pinnacle of military culinary craft," said Warrant Officer Class 1 Lance Ball, chief instructor for the Defense Catering School.
The competition includes a written examination, knife skills, equipment identification, six-course meal, tablecloth and napkin folding, fruit cutting, barista and bartending all judged by some of the most reputable chefs in New Zealand.
"Most of the judges have spent several years instructing in our schoolhouse and have then gone on to serve in some of the highest civilian catering companies in the country," said Ball.
Team Hawaii's first trip to New Zealand was last year after an invitation from 25th Inf. Div. deputy commanding general of interoperability New Zealand Army Col. Trevor Walker connected the New Zealand Army Combat Sustainment Service Battalion with Hawaii's own 524th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
"This experience is truly one-of-a-kind," said Master Sgt. Gabriel Delagarza, senior noncommissioned officer-in-charge of 25th Inf. Div. food services. "I didn't have this kind of emersion into catering until I served under a general officer as an enlisted aide and [through this partnership] we are able to start training our junior culinarians on some of the fine dining details much earlier in their careers."
New Zealand and Australian Defense Force caterers train their troops not only on how to prepare meals, but also on front-of-the-house etiquette.
Learning on their feet, the Hawaii team placed silver in petit fours and flambé as well as bronze in main entrée and dessert.
"I spent a lot of time researching the duties of a steward because it's not something that we normally use in our dining facilities," said Staff Sgt. Francine Talley, head chef for the Hawaii team. "I think our biggest advantage was the fact that we've worked so closely as a team."
Team member Spc. Markowen Casares, assigned to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, is also an asset to the team earning the title of Armed Forces Chef of the Year last month during the 44th Annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise in Fort Lee, Virgina.
"I think everyone brought something to the team and the most important was that we were all willing to learn and adapt quickly to the differences we had in the way we worked the kitchen compared to other countries," said Casares. "It's definitely something that has brought us closer together and gave us the opportunity to build lasting friendships with our partners overseas."
The 524th CSSB commander U.S. Army Lt. Col. Julio Colongonzalez echoed Casares' sentiment of the trip.
"It truly showcased interoperability," he said. "The competition was fierce but friendly. We look forward to working with our allied nations soon."