FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Food service specialist is a term used to describe the fine men and women who often work around the clock 365 days a year to ensure Soldiers in garrison, in the field, or deployed in combat zones, are properly nourished.

Sgt. Daniel Hanshew and Pfc. O'Brian Palmer, food service specialists for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division proved they are more than ordinary cooks by finishing first in the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg installation culinary competition.

Hanshew bested the competition last year, and Palmer took the crown for 2011. Each had to first win a quarterly event to compete in the installation level competition.

The two-part competition consisted of a board, akin to a promotion board or Soldier-of-the-year board, where the cooks stand before a collection of their superiors and are tested on their bearing, soldiering knowledge, and proficiency. Those who survived the board advanced to a cook-off, where they were assigned a series of recipes and challenged to execute better than their remaining peers.

"This years cook-off was a breakfast menu, I felt very confident and very comfortable," said Palmer.

The judges agreed, and picked Palmer to succeed Hanshew ensuring the title of "top chef" remains at the 3rd BCT dining facility (DFAC) for another year.

"This guy is a very hard worker, one of the best, and has earned this," said Hanshew of his successor. "I'm not surprised he won, he knows how to pay attention to detail and really takes pride in our job."

Palmer has been in the Army for all of 18 months, enlisting in April of 2010. He's already earned the opportunity to skydive with the Army's world famous parachute team, The Golden Knights, who call Fort Bragg home.

"I won a tandem jump, it was from 14,000 feet I think," said Palmer "It was pretty awesome."

According to Palmer, he has ten Airborne jumps on his jump log. Ten jumps from 800 feet. "It's nothing like an Airborne jump," he said of his first skydiving adventure. "It's better!"

In addition to the experience of skydiving with the Golden Knights, by virtue of his effort at the quarterly competition, Palmer earned the right to participate in two-week culinary internship under the guidance of Chef Russell Neff the executive chef at Highland Country Club in neighboring Fayetteville.

"You earn one two-week internship for winning the best of the quarter, and another for best of the year," said Hanshew.
Hanshew and Palmer served their internship together. This was Palmers first of two stints he has earned, and the second for Hanshew.

The internship began 4 Oct. and culminated in a gourmet lunch service to members of their chain-of-command on 14 Oct.

"These guys chose the menu and were responsible for its execution," said Chef Neff, a former Paratrooper himself having served with the 82nd Military Police from '96-'99.
This is a chance to give back and pass on passion for food, cooking, and service to Paratroopers, said Neff.

Neff presented Palmer with a plaque and Hanshew with gourmet cookbook recognizing their achievements on behalf of his kitchen staff and the members of Highland Country Club.

In kind, the 3rd BCT command team of Col. Carl Alex and Command Sgt. Maj. William Forro thanked Neff and presented him and his staff brigade coins.

As for Hanshew, he's most proud that the title remained with the 3rd BCT DFAC. "Just glad to keep it in the Panther family," said Hanshew.

Palmer plans to reenlist when his window opens. He hopes to make the Army a career. "Short-term, I'd like to make Specialist but eventually I think I'd like to be an officer."

"Food service MOS is more than just cooking everyday in the DFAC," said Palmer. "There's a lot of other opportunities in the career field, you just have to apply yourself."