KILLEEN, Texas – Four soldiers with the 1st Cavalry Division competed against pit masters across Texas in the Texas Station Spring Fest BBQ Cook Off in Gatesville, Texas, on March 25, 2023. The First Team barbecue team was made up of four qualified professional level culinary level chefs, some which were not culinary specialist.
Every year Champions Barbecue Alliance host a competition for pit masters to compete where a total of five dishes are smoked which included chicken, ribs, pork, brisket and beans. Competitors are judge by the taste, texture and appearance of products.
Members of the culinary team across Fort Hood have not been able to compete in culinary competitions in the last three years, making this the first one since 2017.
“The culinary team has had a drop off due to COVID so, over the last three years we weren’t able to compete in culinary competitions," said Master Sgt. Randall Summerford, the chief culinary management Sergeant Major. “It’s our first year getting out there, either monthly or quarterly, leading up to the big culinary competition every year at Fort Lee, Virginia.”
The competition gave participating Soldiers a chance to show off their culinary skills freeing them from the day-to-day routines they follow at their respective warrior restaurants.
“I enjoy the competition. I love food service. I feel like we’re super heroes," said Staff Sgt. Viktoriya Moore, the platoon sergeant at Operation Iraqi Freedom warrior restaurant. “So, I just feel into my normal duties. It was a normal day in the office; time to suit up and do what we do best, feed people.”
Though the competition included skilled pit masters from across Texas, the First Team Soldiers kept their heads held high during the fast action and strict time limitations they were up against.
“It was just keeping calm and sticking to the basics,” Moore said. "I know how to season food. My dad taught me a little bit on the grill so, I stuck to what I knew.”
Moore spoke of the challenges she faced during the competition, hurdles she had to overcome while being on the grill and making sure the food was good enough to be ready for the judges.
The challenge of not being able to taste food until completion leaves little room for error ensuring chefs understand proper seasoning techniques and adequate temperatures for meats being cooked.
“The biggest thing with barbecuing in general, is you can’t really taste the food in the middle of the process, especially barbecue,” Moore said. “You want to leave it in long and let it cook. You can’t really adjust fire until after.”
In between cooking times, the chefs would have family and friends taste test the food for approval to make sure it was ready for judges. If one product was better than the other, chefs would base their final product for the judges on a vote.
The dishes were presented to the judges while First Team returned to the work area for clean-up and preparation for other products. Judges rated food on a point scale for all teams that participated.
Despite placing 10th for pulled pork, 9th for brisket, and placing 11th place overall in the competition, these food service professionals were able to showcase their talents and use their creativity to bring recognition to Army culinary professionals across Fort Hood.