International Showdown - French, British, German, U.S. Teams Battle for Culinary Superiority
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs - Fort Lee, VA
Staff Sgt. Kevin Arwood has his share of challenges. He is an enlisted aide for a four-star general and is never short of tackling daily obstacles on the job. Yet, he relished the challenges he faced along with partner Sgt. John Densham during the international category of the Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event at MacLaughlin Fitness Center March 9. “It was long event; roughly four hours,” he said of the team’s performance. “You’re mentally drained afterward, and you’ve sweated a lot during the competition.” More precisely, the U.S. team of Arwood-Densham were pitted against those from Germany, Britain and France in a mystery basket event that requires teams to prepare a four-course meal under four hours using ingredients unknown to them until just a few moments before start time. “The mystery events are always challenging, not knowing what you’re going to make,” said Arwood. “You kind of have to use your past experience to try and make the best of what you can. You go with sort of a game plan, but you never really know until you actually see it.” Arwood and Densham, who worked together previously, were provided with mystery basket ingredients that included sorrels, lamb shanks, endives, baby pattypan squash and chicken feet. Chicken feet? “Chicken feet has a lot of collagen so we put it in our sauce – it’s called fortifying the sauce,” said Arwood. “The collagen will kind of seep out and give your sauce a kind of body.” Under the rules, competitors are supplied with ingredients in four food groups. A least one ingredient from each group must be used to prepare the meal. The U.S. team decided upon a tomato-broth seafood soup for the first course; romaine lettuce, endive and arugula salad that included roasted grapes for the second; keesh with braised lamb shanks, braised pork cheeks with crème polenta and roasted pattypan squash for the entree; and an olive oil cake with sorbet for the final course, said Densham. When all was done and the aroma of gourmet food no longer permeated the gymnasium air, the Densham and Arwood team had claimed the title. Their success can be attributed to individual skills and their experience in international competition. Both competed as members of the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team during the culinary Olympics in Germany last year. “To be able to do another competition with one of my friends on the team was really awesome,” said Densham. “It was really a great opportunity.” Arwood said international competition is not only a way to further one’s skills but a means to develop relationships with U.S. allies. “It was a great experience,” he said. “It was good to compete against your peers from other countries, and getting to know them for the short amount of time we were able to. It was an opportunity to show ambassadorship and have a friendly competition. It was a lot of fun.” The international event, held for the fifth time in MCACTE’s 42-year history, is a principal means for other military teams to compete in the United States, said Louis Perrotte, one of several American Culinary Federation chefs to judge the event. “It is a kind of training ground for the big competitions like the Olympics (in Germany) and the world culinary cup (in Luxembourg),” he said. “They build their teams and then they come here, and they can match their skills with the other teams.” The location and facilities Fort Lee offers makes it ideal for international competition, said Perotte. “There is nowhere in the world you can find this kind of site,” he said. “The greatest military culinary competition in the world is right here.” The next international culinary on the radar is the world culinary cup slated for November 2018.