1002 QM Cooks Turn up the Heat for Connelly Competition
4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command - Fort Polk, LA
A team of five U.S. Army Reserve Culinary Specialists with the 1002nd Quartermaster Company based in Beaumont, Texas, competed in the finals of the Philip A. Connelly cooking competition during their annual training field exercise March 25, 2017. The Philip A. Connelly Awards Program is the personification of food service excellence by Army culinary specialists. It is co-sponsored by the National Restaurant Association and the Department of the Army. During the annual Connelly competition, teams of cooks from the U.S. Army Reserve, The U.S. National Guard and the U.S. Army Active Component are evaluated on a wide range of areas related to food preparation in garrison and field environments. “The 1002nd have won at the 4th ESC level, the 79th SSC level and at the USARC (U.S. Army Reserve Command) level to become one of the top four teams competing at the DA (Department of the Army) level for the Army Reserve Component category,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert Nieves, 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command food service advisor. U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Richard Canales, culinary noncommissioned officer in charge, briefed his team of four junior cooks on the menu, the time limits and cooking assignments - while evaluators watched, asked questions and took notes - then turned them loose to begin their work. “It’s all about pride and professionalism,” said Canales. “We’re all from different places but we’ve come together, we’ve worked hard and we work as a team.” Samuel Stanovich with the National Restaurant Association Military Foundation is one of the evaluators judging the competition. He says the evaluators are focused on execution, service standards, preparation and final product. Stanovich stated that all teams start with 1,000 points and points are deducted for infractions. “We’re down to the last of four final teams, so at this level, obviously they’re all good,” said Stanovich. “We’re looking to see how the team communicates, how are they engaging one another...does it look like they’ve really embraced the initiatives they’ve been shown and are taking it to the next level....” U.S. Army Reserve Cpl. Enrique Vizcarra, a culinary specialist with the 1002nd was in charge of preparing the main entrée, roasted pork. He is a chef in his civilian occupation and brings years of cooking experience to his job in the Army Reserve. “I’m trying to create a different experience, using different techniques, spices and flavors,” said Vizcarra. “My goal is to modify and modernize the cooking techniques we have in Army food service so we can present more options to the Soldiers.” U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Christen Chambers is an award-winning food operations specialist assigned to the 1002nd, having competed and won at the highest levels in Army culinary competitions. Her experience is evident as she meticulously measures out ingredients for oatmeal cookies into an enormous mixing bowl. She owns her own bakery catering business in Chicago but says she takes great pride in putting her uniform on and doing her Army job. “The Army came about as a means of going back to school to further my education,” said Chambers. “Having been in and having the opportunities to do the things that I’ve done have certainly broadened my experiences and it’s been pretty awesome.” U.S. Army Reserve Specialists Adrian Carreon and Jamal Sims, both culinary specialists, round out the team. Carreon handled the preparation of sweet potato wedges and the salad, while Sims poured his efforts into preparing beef barley soup. While the cooks toiled to prepare the meal in their cramped mobile kitchen trailer under the constant scrutiny of the evaluators, the rest of the company was engaged in defending their petroleum pipeline from attacks by the exercise opposing forces. Torrential rains the night before and sporadic downpours in the early morning had left the ground a muddy mess. 1002nd’s 1st Sgt. Shawn Ledet directed his troops to hasty fighting positions as the smell of roasted pork wrapped with bacon, beef barley soup and freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies wafted in the air. “This is resiliency training...the type of training that let our Soldier’s know that we can do our mission in any type of conditions,” said Ledet. “We are almost in our ‘ready year’ cycle and this training lets our Soldiers understand our mission and the commander’s intent. Our cooks perform a vital service and they’ve worked hard to support the soldiers in this company and to get to this level of the competition.” The U.S. Army Reserve, under new commander Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, is the most capable, combat-ready and lethal Federal Reserve force in the history of the nation. Realistic, field-training exercises like these measure a unit’s readiness level and hones operational skills. One by one, the Soldiers of the 1002nd enter the mobile kitchen trailer and exit out the other end with a plate of hot food complete with soup, salad, desert and fresh fruit. The cooks and all the Soldiers that worked to support them have done their part and now it’s left to the judge’s scores to determine a winner. There were lots of smiles and accolades going around in the mess tent as the Soldiers polished off their meals, many wishing for a second helping. “I could not be more proud of our cooks and the job they’ve done,” said 1st Lt. Steven Drayton, 1002nd commander, addressing his Soldiers. “Regardless of the outcome, you are all winners to me and we are proud to have you all in the 1002nd.” The results of the Philip A. Connelly competition will be revealed by mid-April 2017. The 1002nd is a part of the 211th Regional Support Group and the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). The command has units throughout Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. As part of America’s Army Reserve, these units are trained, combat-ready and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.
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