By Mike Strasser, Fort Lee Public AffairsMarch 12, 2008
Fort Lee, Va. (March 12, 2008) -- A last minute team cancellation at the Armed Forces Field Kitchen Event March 7 provided a group of Fort Lee food service instructors the opportunity to showcase their skills.
Given a few minutes of preparation, an empty mobile kitchen trailer and a list of rations, the self-proclaimed "Dream Team" set to doing what they do best.
"Fort Lee's finest are simply doing what they teach advanced individual training students every day," said Staff Sgt. Leroy Hamlett, as he observed his colleagues' performance a few feet away.
Hamlett was a member of the support staff at the field site which was operated under Chief Warrant Officer 4 Georgene Davis, Army Center of Excellence, Subsistence during the 33rd U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition.
She said their stepping up to the challenge was commendable but not surprising from such a dedicated group of instructors.
"Anytime I need support from these instructors, they're ready and able," said Davis. "Today was no different. We had an empty MKT and Soldiers to feed, and they jumped right in and performed."
While they weren't a field team originally slated to compete in the 33rd U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition, their cooking performance and meal were critiqued and tasted by the American Culinary Federation judges and a large group of advanced individual training Soldiers.
The "Dream Team" was Staff Sgt. Edwin Ezell, Staff Sgt. Marcus Hughes, Staff Sgt. DeAndre Brown and Staff Sgt. Christopher Gallien.
Like the original NBA Dream Team with Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing, the culinary dream team of Fort Lee is a list of Fort Lee superstars, said Brown.
"It's our everyday job - we're food service," said Brown. "So we were pretty laid back and enjoying ourselves."
Gallien, with 12 years in the food service profession, said experience is what made an otherwise daunting task easy for the team.
"This is second nature to me, it's almost like tying my shoes," said Gallien. "We got together as a team and we set out to accomplish the mission together.
As instructors, they teach younger Soldiers how to work as a team inside the MKT. Never having the opportunity to work together in a competitive format was unique for Hughes and Ezell, both with 17 years in the service. As team captain, Ezell went from a support role in the competition to a participant.
"We had about five minutes before being given the task of preparing a meal," said Ezell, the team captain. "That's what we teach our students. If you know your craft, it doesn't matter where you are, or how much time you're given. You're given the task and you do it."
The prime rib meal was enjoyed by AIT classes from the Petroleum and Water Department, who also dined at the field the previous day. Seeing the Fort Lee sign outside the MKT and being served by the instructors elicited shouts of encouragement from the students. Pvt. Christopher Lujano, a petroleum specialist student, was one of the fortunate 50 to sample the team's product.
"The meal was great," said Lujano. "Everything on it was awesome. The steak was cooked perfectly. It was a treat for us to come out here and experience this."