FORT LEE, Va. (March 14, 2012) -- More than 340 military food service specialists gathered at the Fort Lee Theater Friday for the final event of the largest culinary arts competition in North America. During the crowning moment of the awards ceremony, Team Fort Stewart, Ga., was presented the highly coveted title of Installation of the Year.

The 37th Annual Military Culinary Arts Competition award ceremony also recognized the work of the many Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen and international competitors who converged on Fort Lee to display their cooking talents and kitchen knowledge. It acknowledged the individuals who organized and judged the monumental contest as well.

In a sweeping victory, Fort Stewart team members earned the titles of Armed Forces Chef of the Year and Junior Chef of the Year, won the Student Team Skills competition and mastered the Baron H. Galand Culinary Knowledge Bowl.

Sgt. Maj. David Turcotte, Fort Stewart team captain, earned a silver medal and won Chef of the Year while Spc. Jacqueline Canidy earned a gold medal and the junior chef title.

"At the 3rd Infantry Division, we train hard every day and with every single asset," Turcotte said. "We've got division assets behind us, and we planned on winning."

Turcotte said he was proudest of the young members on the team, many of whom have never competed before.

"My kids have worked hard and trained hard," he said. "They worked late nights and Saturdays and Sundays. They really wanted to bring the award back with them to Stewart and begin a new tradition."

Fort Stewart has been absent as a competitor from the annual competition for more than five years, Turcotte noted.

Last year's top winner, Team Pentagon, earned second place for Installation of the Year and Fort Hood, Texas, trailing the others by less than two points, earned third place.

The Armed Forces Enlisted Aide Competition, a new category to the event, is a comprehensive evaluation of food service personnel who are assigned to the staff of many of the top leaders around the armed forces. Thirteen enlisted aides from the Army, Navy and Coast Guard competed this year.

Navy Culinary Specialist Chief Derrick Davenport, enlisted aide to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, earned the first-time title. Sgt. Matthew Flemister, enlisted aide to the Director of the Army Staff Lt. Gen. William J. Troy, was the runner-up.

The Field Cooking Competition consisted of a five-person team planning, preparing and serving a three-course meal -- restaurant style for 80 diners.

The team from Fort Hood prepared a broccoli, beer and bacon soup with smoked Gouda cheese as the starter; served a pan-seared and roasted rack of lamb paired with a blackberry and port wine reduction, roasted corn and caramelized onion relish topped with a polenta chip bacon and cheddar croquette, sautéed green beans and bell pepper lozenges for their entrée; and finished with a chocolate decadence cake accompanied with orange sorbet in an almond Florentina cup and pomegranate sauce, which earned a gold medal and won the competition.

Capitalizing on their location and the Texas cowboy flare, the team members decorated the tables with cactus plants, bandana napkins and straw cowboy-hats for each guest. Mini metal buckets with shelled peanuts and cowboy boot-shaped glasses completed the presentation that was dubbed the "Fort Hood Lone Star Saloon." The whimsical atmosphere earned a gold medal and title in the new category -- Best Decorated Table.

The teams from the Pentagon and Fort Stewart earned gold medals as well and were second and third place winners for field cooking.

As well as pleasing the eye and palette, the competition is designed to train and improve the overall level of food service professionalism. The Joint Center of Culinary Excellence, where members of the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force begin their training in culinary arts, organizes the event.

"Whether competitors left with a gold medal or an honorable mention, they are taking with them new experiences and skills that they can apply back home in their units," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Russell Campbell, chief, Advanced Food Service Training Division.

This year, there were 28 teams competing from all branches of service -- 17 teams vied for Installation of the Year; 19 competitors participated in the Armed Forces Student Chef of the Year; and 24 competitors battled for the prestigious title of Armed Forces Chef of the Year.

During the awards ceremony, more than 138 gold medals, 177 silver medals and 255 bronze medals were presented in the packed theater.

The winners from Fort Stewart will compete at the regional level in New York in April where they will test their mettle against other teams and chefs in the northeast. Winners from the regional events compete at the national level at the American Culinary Federation National Convention later this year.

Other special category winners included these:

Nutritional Hot Food Challenge: Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Edward Fuchs and Chief Petty Officer Jason Stagnitto

Best Ice Carving in Show and a perfect score: Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeffery Lein and Master Sgt. Travis Jones, U.S. Army Special Operations Command

Best Exhibit in Show (Cold Platter): Spc. Shawn Hafele, Fort Carson, Colo., and Spc. Alexandria Long, Fort Hood, Texas

Best Exhibit in Show (Cold Appetizers): Staff Sgt. Billy Daugette, enlisted aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

Best Exhibit in Show (Patisserie/Confectionery): Sgt. Maj. Mark Morgan, enlisted aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

Best Exhibit in Show and a perfect score (Showpiece): Spc. JanMichael Calma, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

Best Exhibit in Show and a perfect score (Student Centerpiece): Pfc. Dennis Escaner, Team Korea
Best Exhibit in Show (Live-action Showpiece): Navy Chief Petty Officer Ernesto Alverez, White House Mess

Most Artistic Exhibit in Show: Staff Sgt. Carlos Quiles, Fort Drum, N.Y.
Judges Special Award: U.S. Coast Guard

Best in Class (Contemporary Cooking): Sgt. 1st Class Motavia Alston, Team Pentagon

Best in Class (Contemporary Pastry): Staff Sgt. Orlando Serna, Team Pentagon