Blades of Glory: Joint Team Hawaii Trains for Three-Peat Victory at National Culinary Competition
8th Theater Sustainment Command - Schofield Barracks, HI
As the 2017 Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event approaches, the members of Joint Team Hawaii continue to prepare themselves to defend their title while competing for a three-peat victory. The team, comprised of service members from the Army and Air Force, train daily at the Culinary Arts Lab on Schofield Barracks by cooking several types of meals to enhance their skills before the competition in March in Fort Lee, Va. According to Chief Warrant Officer 3 J.D. Ward, the chief of advanced culinary training division manager for the United States Army Culinary Arts Team (USACAT) at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, the competition is the largest culinary competition in North America. The competition is sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation and showcases the talents of military chefs from around the globe in all branches of the Armed Forces. “It’s probably fair to estimate 250 competitors,” Ward said. “So you’ll get participation from all branches of service, with varying levels of participation based off of their own funding sources, etc.” Competitors are also expected from the Armed Forces of France, Canada, Germany and the British Army. Ward said the teams are comprised of 10 members and divided into two teams: the first is referred to as the Primary Members and the second is the Apprentice Members. “I really like how Team Hawaii develops their student team to compete at the next level: if you win at Fort Lee you represent the military as a region for the American Culinary Federation at the American National Culinary competition every summer, where they compete against community colleges and other organizations that develop student teams to go compete there,” Ward said. One of the competitors who made the cut for Joint Team Hawaii is Air Force Staff Sgt. Kara Mitchell, a food service specialist with 647th Force Support Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. As the only member of the team not in the Army, she says she is happy to be a member of the team. “It’s awesome,” Mitchell said. “We get to do all kinds of stuff outside of our normal day-to-day duties and try to imagine and experiment with different things so that we bring it to reality and put it on a plate.” Mitchell’s role for the team competition will be making pastries. She says that she plans to use all that she has learned to prepare her juniors in the arts. “As soon as this is over, I’ll go back and tell my Airmen how it is so that maybe they can get the opportunity to come to it next year,” Mitchell said. Aside from finding out who has the best individual or team culinary skills, one of the most critical aspects of the competition is the added readiness competitors and their units get as a result of their participation. "Among the competition's objectives is to provide culinary specialists with hands-on training focused on skills, flavor, and nutrition; providing their organizations with more enjoyable and wholesome meals and leading to greater unit readiness,” Ward said. Pfc. Micah Morris, culinary specialist with Forward Support Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, said that his biggest takeaway from preparing for the competition has been getting back to the basics. “The basic knife skills, the basic cleaning skills like sanitation, that’s a big thing in the kitchen, but everything starts from the basics,” said Morris. Morris, who has been in the Army for two years, says he is glad to be able to be a part of the team. Participants like Morris will compete in categories such as Team Buffet (cold food table), military hot food kitchen (MKT event), best student team, hot food nutritional challenge and professional contemporary cooking. They also have the opportunity to compete for individual titles like Armed Forces Chef of the Year and Armed Forces Student Chef of the Year. “It’s an honor,” Morris said. “It’s been very good training ever since October, so I’m very proud to be a part of it. Morris said that he is grateful for the skills he has acquired during the training, knowing that it will serve him in life after the Army. “Culinary school taught me just the basic culinary skills you would need to be in the Army and outside the Army,” Morris said. “The training in preparation for the competition included long days and long nights, but it’s been very helpful.” The other members of this year’s team are Sgt. 1st Class Jose Alves, the team manager from 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th TSC; Staff Sgt. Fabian Murillo, advanced culinary noncommissioned officer with 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division; Staff Sgt. Renie Arana, advanced culinary NCO with 1st Bn., 27th Inf. Rgt., 2nd BCT, 25th ID; Sgt. Marisabel Gray, culinary NCO with 65th Engineer Battalion, 2nd BCT, 25th ID; Spc. Aaron Delos Reyes, culinary specialist with 84th Eng. Bn., 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th TSC; Pfc. Ashanti Brown, culinary specialist with 84th Eng. Bn., 130th Eng. Bde., 8th TSC; Pfc. Anne Nicole Yapcengco, culinary specialist with 30th Signal Bn., 516th Signal Brigade.