By Sgt. Roland Hale, 1st Inf. Div. Public AffairsNovember 23, 2011
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Army cooks on Fort Riley are putting in overtime this Thanksgiving to make their dining facilities a home away from home for Soldiers staying on post through the holiday.
At the Demon Diner, the main dining facility of the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, the kitchen staff has harnessed the full spectrum of its culinary skills to pull off the operation.
Cooks at the facility have already prepared more than 1,100 pounds of meat, hundreds of desserts and more than 1,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables. And that is just the beginning.
Each of the three Fort Riley dining facilities offering Thanksgiving meals this year is given a theme to incorporate into their meal service. This year, the Demon Diner was given the "Thanksgiving Traditions" theme. Cooks at the facility have created a collage of cornucopias, turkeys, fall leaves and pumpkins -- a total of more than 60 displays to decorate their dining area.
Sgt. 1st Class Darlene Taylor, a senior food service noncommissioned officer, works as a supervisor at the dining facility.
"This is our time to shine as food service personnel, to show what we can really do as culinary professionals," she said.
It is not all skill, but a good deal of hard work that goes into pulling off a successful holiday meal, she said.
"It's amazing to see the hard work our team is doing here to make is special for the Soldiers," she said. "We've got a one of a kind team in the back working to make this special."
Pvt. Fransheska Colon, a 20-year-old native of Tampa, Florida, is one of the Demon cooks. Colon has been in the Army for seven months, and this year will be her first Thanksgiving away from home.
"I know what it's like to live in the barracks, to be away from Family, so it's nice to cook for Soldiers like me who are here for the holiday," she said.
Colon, who is on her second month working at the dining facility, said she got to test her culinary chops in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.
"I've made ginger bread houses, cornucopias, and food that I've never made before," she said. "It's nice to focus on our job, learn something new and to do it all for other Soldiers."
Spc. Steven Haney, a 26-year-old Soldier from Springfield, Mo., said he also enjoys working for his fellow Soldiers.
"I wish I could do more," said Haney. "I get to go home over the long weekend, so I figure the least I can do is help make the best Thanksgiving possible for the ones who are staying here without their Families."
In addition to working between ovens, stoves and cutting boards in the kitchen, Haney put in his time making a 1st Infantry Division Thanksgiving cornucopia for display in the dining room.
"We've all spent a lot of extra time here lately," said Haney. "It will be nice to see it pay off when the meal comes."
The dining facility is also hoping their hard work pays off in the form of a trophy. In 2009 the Demon Diner was named Fort Riley's "Best Thanksgiving Dining Facility." The brigade was deployed to Iraq for last year's competition, and they are aiming for another trophy to celebrate their return to the competition.
The Demon Diner is serving its official Thanksgiving meal Nov. 23 to facilitate the judging of the competition. The dining facility will serve another Thanksgiving meal Nov. 24.