The Fort Campbell Culinary Arts Team recently participated in the 44th Annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise on Fort Lee, Virginia.
The Joint Culinary Center of Excellence administers the JCTE, which is the largest American Culinary Federation-sanctioned competition in North America. It showcases the talent of military chefs from around the globe in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and foreign military culinary teams.
The Fort Campbell culinarians participated in a different category each day, March 9-14. The JCTE's individual competition categories included Armed Forces chef of the year, pastry chef of the year and student chef of the year. Team categories included team table display, nutrition, mobile kitchen trailers and student team.
Spc. Khylissia Robertson, a culinary specialist with 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), participated in several competition categories during the exercise including nutrition.
"The nutrition category requires you to cook a four-course meal under 850 calories," Robertson said. "For people that don't know, that's really little calories. Most humans intake from 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day. To make a four-course meal out of 850 calories was really hard."
The meal requirements were not the only thing the Fort Campbell team found difficult. The limited space and equipment while racing against the clock were also things the team dealt with.
Spc. Zakkiyy Sheppard, a culinary specialist with Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Abn. Div., said having his teammates near gave him confidence.
"The hardest part about what we did today was the time, but we managed to pull through," said Sheppard said, who was Robertson's partner in the nutrition competition.
Meals prepared by culinarians aren't just to keep Soldiers fed, the meals also equip Soldiers with the fuel they need to perform their duties on the frontlines of battle.
"Our most precious resource is the Soldier," said Lt. Col. Byron Coleman, director of the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence. "Quality meals, quality nutrition, eating right to perform well - this ties into Soldier lethality. It's a priority of the chief of staff of the Army."
Not only does the JCTE enhance readiness, the training exercise equips culinary artists with tools to match civilian industry standards that will carry them well beyond their time in the military into the civilian workforce.
"We're getting subject matter expertise from industry leaders across the United States," Coleman said. "They come in to train our culinary specialists across department of defense. These culinary specialists are then able to go back and train their counterparts or cohorts at their various installations. So, the training they receive here - they're able to pay it forward exponentially."
The ACF and its judges share a close relationship with the JCTE. The ACF sanctions the competition and gives latitude to the event itself, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Joseph Wisniewski, coordinator for the JCTE and manager of the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team.
"The medals competitors earn can be credited toward ACF certification," Wisniewski said. "We also partner with them for our accreditation program, which equates to civilian skills all over the world."