By T. Anthony BellMarch 21, 2008
FORT LEE, Va. (March 21, 2008) -- The 33rd U.S. Army Culinary Competition capped two weeks of intense competition, training and camaraderie with an awards ceremony March 14 at Fort Lee's Mifflin Hall.
The event, the largest of its kind in the United States, is one that aims to showcase and improve military food-service skills.
Brig. Gen. Jesse R. Cross, Quartermaster Center and School commanding general and the event's host, said this year's competition set a standard for future ones.
"I'm told that this is the best competition that we've ever had," he said during the ceremony's keynote speech.
That sentiment came from the participants themselves, said Lt. Col. David K. Allen, director, Army Center of Excellence, Subsistence.
"We talked to them throughout the competition and that's the feedback they gave us," he said.
About 161 military food service personnel from installations all over the world converged at ACES' McLaughlin Hall and other locations to compete in 40 different events during the competition. They included members of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, intermittent competitors in the event and the Air Force and Navy, who were competing for the first time.
None of the competition winners were announced before the awards ceremony. Most of the competitors and about 100 others packed Mifflin Hall in a drama-laced atmosphere similar to that of the Academy Awards.
The biggest award of the event, the installation of the year award, was presented to Fort Carson, Colo. They won a number of individual and team events to include a number of categories in the cold exhibits event in which they constructed an attractive Western-themed food display complete with adult-sized, chocolate-tallow-sculpted cowboy figures and a steady flow of country music. Senior team member Staff Sgt. Guy Winks said the team worked hard to fare well in the competition.
"It was an incredible amount of work," he said. "I'm so proud of the team. I worked them weekends, evenings, overnight. I worked them 24 hours on several occasions. It was just our year."
Fort Carson team manager Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Longstaff said the caliber of personnel made the difference.
"This is absolutely the best team I've had to work with," said Longstaff, a former Culinary Arts event coordinator. "They're great people, great students, they worked so very hard and bought me my very first installation of the year."
This year was also a first for the Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. William Allison, an enlisted aide to a three-star general, captured the Armed Forces Chef of the Year event, formerly the Army Senior Chef of the Year competition. He earned a silver medal in the event, beating out 16 other challengers. This is the first year participants from the other services were considered for the award, and Allison said he is glad to have broken new ground for the Marine Corps.
"This is for all the hard work, the Marine Corps and all the years that we were absent from this competition," he said.
Team Korea's Spc. Brian Lippert was named Armed Forces Junior Chef of the Year. He attributed his win to leadership.
"Chief (Travis Smith) has been leading me from day one," said Lippert. "He's an icon in the Army. He's been pushing me to strive, try things I wouldn't normally try and get out of my element and take the next step."
The field cooking event, in which four-man teams use cramped mobile kitchens to prepare 80 or so meals, went to Fort Bliss, Texas. A team of instructors from Fort Lee earned second place.
Although Army teams finished strong in the competition, contestants from the other services fared well. Allen said the competitiveness of all the services sets the stage for next year's competition; one he expects will enjoy even more participants than this year.
"We think that's really going to enhance our ability to promote and draw people back for next year's competition to make it even bigger and better," he said.
Installation of the Year
1. Fort Carson
2. Team Korea
3. Fort Bragg
Armed Forces Chef of the Year
Gunnery Sgt. William Allison, Marine Corps
Armed Forces Junior Chef of the Year
Spc. Brian Lippert, Team Korea
2. Team Hawaii
3. Fort Lee
Student Skills Competition
Baron J. Galand Knowledge Bowl
Nutritional Hot Food Challenge
Best in Show - Ice Carving
U.S. Coast Guard
Best in Class - Contemporary Cooking
GYSGT Daniel O'Connel, Marine Corps
Best in Class - Contemporary Pastry
SSG Joshua Spiess, Fort Lee
Best Buffet Table
Best Exhibit in Show (Category A)
Pvt. Juan Munoz, Team Korea
Best Exhibit in Show (Category B)
SFC Rodney Lubnow, Fort Bragg
Best Exhibit in Show (Category C)
MSG Mark Warren, Team Europe
Best Exhibit in Show (Category D)
SSG Jerry Bidal, Fort Lewis
Most Artistics Exhibit in Show
SPC Jiao Tengbo, Fort Lewis