By Staff Sgt. Gaelen Lowers, 8th Theater Sustainment Command Public AffairsDecember 6, 2012
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Warriors from all branches of service traded their weapons for spoons, spatulas and ladles, here, Oct. 17, to prepare for the 38th annual Military Culinary Arts Competition, in Fort Lee, Va.
The two-week joint competition is North America's largest culinary competition and is sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation. It's been held every year since 1973, with the exceptions of 1991 and 2003, during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, respectively.
The contest showcases the talents of military chefs from around the globe.
"The journey through this thing will be phenomenal for everybody," said Senior Chief Brandon Parry, leading enlisted aide to Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, and lead trainer for the team. "We all fight the same fight at the end of the day.
"We will have an Army specialist, a Navy petty officer and an Air Force senior airman, all working together, side-by-side, in a kitchen for 16 hours straight, for two weeks straight," he explained
In past years, the different services across the Islands hadn't worked together much for the competition, but this year, Army representatives from the 8th Theater Sustainment Command and 25th Infantry Division reached out to USPACOM to make the competition a truly joint effort, said Master Sgt. Antonio Boies, chief food operations management noncommissioned officer, 8th TSC.
"Without the Army's efforts, we would not be able to accomplish this," said Parry, who has competed 26 times in the past 10 years by himself, because the Navy doesn't have a system to support it. "The Army has come with open arms and provided a facility, rations and other things essential to the training. The other services are not set up to support this. Without the Army, we would be doing this out of somebody's kitchen in their house."
The applicants are also excited about the thought of working side-by-side with their brothers in arms.
"I have never worked with anyone from another service, but I am excited to!" exclaimed Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Walter Cariastobar, enlisted aide to Locklear. "Everyone has different tastes, ideas and skills, so when we all get together, something great usually comes out of it."
Once the 39 applicants are whittled down to about 20, who will officially be on the team, that's when the real work begins, said Chef Ernesto Limcaco, corporate chef of Y. Hats & Co. and leading civilian culinary adviser for the contest.
"This competition will really test the Soldier's mettle because it is a strain on a person's stamina and endurance," he said.
For the next four months, the competitors' place of duty will be in the training kitchen with trainers from the different services, practicing for more than 20 events that will be at Fort Lee. Days will be long hours.
"The things we will have to go through training these guys, from now until the end of February, is monumental," Parry said. "From ice carving, to savory, to static work, to sugar sculpting, to pastry, it's really the full gambit. Half of these guys don't even know what pâté is, but they will be making it expertly by the time we leave for Fort Lee."