As Project Convergence 2021 sits at the forefront of the Yuma Proving Ground, the appetite for advanced warfare training isn’t the only thing serving the Soldiers at the base.
A crew made up of just a few is pushing out more than 5,000 pounds of food each week to feed the stomachs of hundreds of Soldiers taking part in PC21.
“I really have a good crew, and they are motivated,” said Tony Williams, Business Manager at YPG’s Cactus Café.
Williams is responsible for overseeing and assisting the crews tasked with preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the Soldiers taking part in Project Convergence.
Like the Soldiers, the crew has a mission of their own to get the meals prepped and ready to serve around the clock each day. With such a high volume of mouths to feed, Williams temporarily closed the Cactus Café to focus on food preparation efforts for the Soldiers.
“Their hours are stretched pretty thin, but they are handling it, no one is complaining,” he said. “Everyone is doing their due diligence.”
Thankfully the kitchen staff is able to utilize personnel from YPG’s other eating establishments, along with volunteers, to help push out the large quantity of food, Williams said.
“We have people who come in and ‘pinch hit’ for us and substitute, which is helping,” Williams said. “It has been quite a mission, but I enjoy doing this.”
Food preparations take about 2.5 hours per meal. Crews for breakfast begin in the wee hours of the morning to feed the Soldiers an early breakfast.
With four hands on deck, the cooks go through 16 cartons of eggs, 30 pounds of bacon, 20 pounds of sausage, more than 30 pounds of potatoes, and 36 cases of milk. That is just for breakfast.
Meanwhile, box lunches for during the week are also being prepared. On the weekend, crews prepare lunch for all of the Soldiers.
Dinner preparations begin as soon as breakfast wraps up.
Edgar Ramirez has been cooking for 14 years and is the cook responsible for dinner.
On the menu, Chicken Cordon Bleu. Ramirez along with two other cooks prepare 100 pounds of chicken, 20 pounds of rice, and 45 pounds of veggies.
“It is a lot of food for just us, but it is easy, not too hard,” said Ramirez, who has never cooked for that many people. “I am good doing what I do, I love my job.” And at the end of the day the reward for Ramirez is seeing the Soldiers faces as they get to enjoy the meals he prepares.
“They love the food! I like to make happy faces,” he said.