The dining facility went quiet, Lt. Gen. Sean Bernabe had the trophy in hand. The commanding general tried to look serious, and for a second the assembled culinary team held their collective breath. He couldn’t help but smile though, and when he did, the team knew what was coming next.
“Ai-ee-yah!” shouted the crowd. The entire cafeteria erupted in applause. They had done it, the hours of planning and preparation had all been worth it. The 3rd Cavalry Regiment team at Theodore Roosevelt Warrior Restaurant won the annual Thanksgiving culinary competition at Ft. Hood, Texas, on Nov. 22, 2022.
“They did so much work,” said Master Sgt. Jigna P. Steward, the Warrior Restaurant’s senior enlisted culinary specialist. “Hours and hours and hours of work. They used their hearts and their skills and a lot of training and then they made it happen.”
“It makes me really, really proud,” Steward said.
Five dining facilities participated in the competition and each one had chosen a theme to wow the judges. This year’s themes included churrascaria, football, a glamorous casino and The Peanuts. Despite the eclectic mix of themes one thing that the judges and Soldiers found to be consistent was the food.
“I don’t know who put all this together but it’s amazing,” said Maj. Leif Vestermark from 1st Medical Brigade while dining.
Vestermark, who was enjoying the spread with his NCOs, had moved on to dessert but his sergeants were just digging in.
“The turkey is so good,” said Staff Sgt. Laura Alvarez, who also works at 1st Medical Brigade, who was sampling some turkey while also enjoying a plate of collard greens and baked macaroni and cheese.
Bernabe, who led the delegation of judges alongside Maj. Gen. Michael Keating, III Armored Corps deputy commanding general-support, Maj. Gen. Christopher Beck, III Armored Corps deputy commanding general-maneuver, Command Sergeant Maj. Cliff Burgoyne, the III Armored Corps Sgt. Major and several others agreed with the sentiment, especially after eating five Thanksgiving dinners in a row.
“What we saw out here was excellence,” Bernabe said. “These kinds of competitions are all about caring, and providing the best possible. They provided a great Thanksgiving meal.”
The commanding general remarked that he found the winning dining facility’s theme, football, to be well thought out, and well executed. He found the centerpiece, a fully edible miniature football stadium, sculpted from puffed rice, marshmallow and fondant to be particularly impressive. What really set the 3rd Cav team apart though, according to the general, was something far more modest.
“It was a close competition,” Bernabe said. “Ultimately, like with many things, it comes down to leadership. You can see it in here, at every level from the top, down the middle and to the youngest leaders and that’s the key to their success.”
Before Bernabe left to crown the runners-up at the 1st Cavalry Division, he paused to express his gratitude to the community for the quality of the competition.
“To all the Soldiers here at Ft. Hood,” said Bernabe, ''I'm lucky to be a part of this team.”