Culinary 'Three-Peat' - Team Hawaii Slays Rivals for Third Consecutive Crown

U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs - Fort Lee, VA

If there is a culinary equivalent to the popular phrase “dropping the mic” – the sound of electronic feedback from a microphone after a stellar performance of some kind – then it should be “dropping the spatula,” but substitute the relatively soft sound for that of a howitzer heard at ear-splitting range. Or any sound commensurate with the achievement of Team Hawaii during Friday’s Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event Awards Ceremony at the Lee Theater. The event, hosted by Brig. Gen. Rodney Fogg, the Quartermaster General and commandant of the Quartermaster School, heralds the participants and performances of the largest culinary competition in North America. The animated and jovial Fogg was joined by Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, the QM School CSM. Other guests included CSM David S. Davenport, CSM, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. So, what was so special about Team Hawaii’s performance during this year’s competition? The “aloha” squad became only the third team in the 42-year history of MCACTE to win the culinary team of the year category three consecutive years – a “three-peat” to use pop culture vernacular, and an achievement equal to an NFL team winning three Super Bowls in a row. In response to the win, Sgt. 1st Class Jose Alves, Team Hawaii’s noncommissioned officer in charge and team architect, seemed too sleep-deprived from a busy week to express his own personal feelings. He instead resorted to talking about the concept of teamwork he successfully got across to 10 mostly young service members with no competition experience. “They have team cohesion, they’re disciplined, they work well together and they understand each other,” said the former enlisted aide, noting his team has only one Soldier from last year’s team. “I look at them like I look at an NFL team – if they’re not working in sync, they won’t perform well. No matter how talented one person is, it’s not a one-person team.” The word “team” resonated with purpose and substance among Team Hawaii Soldiers during the weeklong competition that concluded March 9 at MacLaughlin Fitness Center. In the non-individual categories, it earned the top prizes for student team, cold food table and nutritional hot food challenge. Spc. Anne NicoleYapcengco, one of Hawaii’s newbies, said the team’s success was indeed about pulling together. “Without each other and without supporting each other, some of us would’ve went our separate ways,” said the 22-year-old. a gold medal winner in the student chef of the year category. “The events were fun but stressful and without teamwork it would have been more so.” Team’s Hawaii journey to “three-peating” is tinged with vindication. There is at least a perception the team’s last two crowns were won with the support of top-notch instruction its competitors did not have access to. This year, however, there was no such support, and the team purposely set out to counter the naysayers. “I just told my team to stay focused, go out there and cook and let the medals speak for us,” said Alves. So how did Alves’ young charges earn the title with largely no experience, loads of youth and without the best instructors money could buy? Drafting the best talent and hard work, he said. “When I put this team together, I picked them based on personality not how skillful they were,” he said. “You can’t teach heart; you can’t teach someone to want to win, and the team I put together had one goal in mind -- to prove everyone wrong. On top of that, they worked countless hours, weekends and through Christmas and New Year’s.” The Fort Drum, N.Y., team, in one of its best finishes of recent, claimed second in the culinary team of the year category. In other categories, Cpl. Gregory Becker of Fort Campbell, Ky., earned the title of senior chef of the year; Pfc Huy Nguyen of Fort Drum won the student chef of the year crown; Staff Sgt. Silvestre Arroyo, U.S. Army Africa topped the competition for enlisted aide of the year; and Team Pentagon captured the military hot food kitchen trophy. This year’s MCACTE attracted more than 200 service members from all services and three foreign countries. Collectively, they entered more than 500 entries for judging. Stratford University, a private regional institution, awarded scholarships to many of the winners. The MCACTE is a training event that seeks to improve food service skills and thus, readiness. It is administered by the QM School’s Joint Culinary Center of Excellence.

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