FORT LEE, Va. -- Traveling from military installations around the world, more than 300 U.S. Armed Forces chefs are on their way to Fort Lee for the 37th Annual Military Culinary Arts Competition. This American Culinary Federation sanctioned event features individual and team challenges in a variety of categories.

"The competition is designed to train and improve the overall level of food service professionalism," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Russell Campbell, chief, Advanced Food Service Training Division, Joint Culinary Center of Excellence. JCCoE is part of the U.S. Army Quartermaster School, Combined Arms Support Command. The QM School trains and educates Soldiers, Civilians and members of other services and nations in quartermaster skills and functions.

Members from every branch of the military are bringing with them an arsenal of cutlery and recipes to aid them in this prestigious culinary battle royale. Featuring more than 600 judged events, the competition is sure to sizzle this year.

The excitement kicks off Feb. 26 as 24 of the best-of-the-best military chefs compete for the title of Armed Forces Chef of the Year. This event represents the highest individual culinary award in the military. It tests a chef's ability to assess a mystery basket of ingredients and produce a four-course meal for four people.

The community is encouraged to come out and support the military; the culinary competition offers a fun-filled destination with a tasteful flair. The competition is open to the public free of charge Feb. 29 - March 7, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. All events during this time will take place at the Post Field House.

Participation in the culinary competition is open to active-duty members of all services, Department of Defense Civilians, and U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard personnel. Some of the Army teams competing will be representing Fort Hood, Fort Bliss, Fort Drum, Fort Bragg, Korea, Hawaii, the Pentagon, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Joint Base Lewis-McCord and the Reserve component. Teams will also be participating from the Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard.

Throughout the competition, military culinarians will exhibit their talents in preparing hot foods, cold buffets, pastries and chocolate works of art to earn individual and team bronze, silver and gold medals. Categories include field cooking, nutritional hot food challenge, ice carving, culinary knowledge bowl, practical cooking and pastry, team buffet and showpieces.

The competition has evolved over the years to replicate the school's joint training environment. That evolution continues with the enlisted aide of the year event. This category was previously opened to only Army personnel, but is now a joint service competition. This demanding event consists of four phases: a hot food challenge, uniform assembly challenge, leadership board and a written exam.

Debuting this year are some exciting new live competitions such as melon carving and cake decorating. Also new this year is an international competition which takes place Feb. 29. Competitors will mix up a taste of global cuisine from four countries -- the United States, Germany, Columbia and Canada. Representing Team USA will be Master Sgts. Mark Morgan and Jesus Camacho, enlisted aides to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The field cooking competition will once again be open to the public. A limited number of tickets will be available for $4.55. Each day, Feb. 29 -- March 7, teams will square off and be responsible for preparing and plating 75 high-quality meals. Tickets are very limited, and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 11 a.m. each day. Tickets will not be sold in advance.

To support the development of professional military chefs, JCCoE will be offering cooking demonstrations and classes for the competitors.

"We offer two student categories to encourage junior members to expand their skills and develop as leaders," Campbell explained. "These grueling culinary marathon events are exciting to watch and provide a dynamic learning environment for the participants." The Student Team Skills competition consists of a three-phase event, which tests developing chef's basic culinary skills, their ability to execute a four-course meal and prepare a cold food platter. "The Student Chef of the Year is very similar to the Armed Forces Chef of the Year competition," he said. "The emphasis of this event though is on skill development. It is designed to test the chefs' abilities to produce a menu to standard and demonstrate correct knife cuts, cooking skills and plate presentation."

This competition also gives Soldiers the opportunity to try out for the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team. The team is the U.S. National Military Culinary Team and competes at local, national and international culinary competitions. The purpose of USACAT is to offer military chefs the opportunity to sharpen and broaden their skills. "USACAT members are obligated to share knowledge which ultimately benefits the military diners in dining facilities both in a garrison environment and on the battlefield," Campbell said.

For the latest updates on the competition, visit the Advanced Food Service Training Division's Facebook Fanpage at The portions of the competition will be broadcast live on the fanpage every day.