Soldiers from across the 10th Mountain Division (LI) competed in the Fort Drum Chef of the Year competition Sept. 15 and 16 on Fort Drum, N.Y. The eight chefs competed in two categories: the Juniors Competition for the junior enlisted Soldiers, and the Seniors Competition for the non-commissioned officers. Each competitor won Chef of the Quarter in their respective category earlier in the fiscal year.
“This competition truly tests the total Soldier concept for each of these Mountain Soldiers,” said Sgt. Maj. Barton Beatty, chief culinary management sergeant major, 10th Mountain Division. “They truly define what it means to be ‘Mountain Tough’.”
The competition began with an Army Combat Fitness Test followed by a weapons malfunction check. The Soldiers then completed an exam on their military and culinary knowledge before cooking in the kitchen.
To start the cook-off, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Sawatzke, the manager of the Fort Drum Culinary Arts team, demonstrated how to properly filet a salmon and how to prepare a live lobster for cooking. Following the demonstration, the chefs entered the kitchen.
The senior chefs received a basket of five mystery ingredients and turned it into a two-course meal. The basket included a filet of fresh salmon, a live lobster, a rack of lamb, a pomegranate, and manchego cheese. The Junior chefs followed the seniors, and received a similar but smaller basket of ingredients. Their basket included a cut of beef tenderloin, a bag of Argentinian red shrimp, and a filet of salmon. Both groups received two hours to plan and cook their meal, which was immediately served to a panel of judges.
The following day, the Soldiers competed in a mock promotion board to further test their military and culinary knowledge.
Sgt. Kevin Smith, 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, won the Seniors Competition
“I had a feeling it was gonna be a close competition, but I’m happy that I got first place,” said Smith.
Smith prepared a lobster salad with a pomegranate vinaigrette for his appetizer and a french-style sauteed rack of lamb and salmon with summer squash, cherry tomatoes, and a cream sauce for his entrée.
“If you keep training, keep making mistakes, you’ll learn to fix those mistakes, and you’ll get better,” Smith said. “A professional chef is always learning something new.”
Pfc. Jonathan Arendale, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team won the title of Junior Chef of the Year.
“I’m really happy to win. I worked hard for it, and studied hard for it,” Arendale said.
Arendale prepared a salmon and shrimp tartar for his appetizer and a seared filet mignon with roasted beets, a french-style crouton, and a butter-poached potato with maple and red wine sauce as his entrée.
“If you want to be a good cook, you have to keep working and working at it. Don’t be afraid to experiment.” Arendale said. “If you want to try something new, do it.”