Iron chefs put cooking skills to test
By Abigail Meyer, Fort Bliss Bugle Editor:
(El Paso, Texas, March. 16, 2017) The pressure is palpable. Steam rises from dishes cooking on the stove and the kitchen is quiet, other than the sound of banging pots and pans. These chefs are serious about their cooking.
Eight culinary specialists assigned to various units across 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss competed in the quarterly Iron Chef training event at the Fort Bliss Culinary Center here March 8.
“From every DFAC on post. We give them a mystery basket, like you see on TV and they take that and add some chicken or fish and give it to them and they have a certain amount of time to do a menu,” said Staff Sgt. Guatrelle Spears, a judge and member of the Fort Bliss Culinary Team. “Then they present the menu to us and then they can start getting their supplies together.”
Soldiers had just 30 minutes to come up with recipes for a three-course meal. Pfc. Davon Arnold, assigned to 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, went with a chicken and carrot soup.
“It’s kind of stressful, because for me, I like to know what I’m cooking so I can get my ingredients ready,” Arnold said. “I kind of like how they do it like that because it makes you think. You have to work fast and efficient.”
The meal had to include a soup, salad and entrée. After figuring out what to make, they start cooking. They had about one hour to prepare four full meals, one for each of the three judges and one for display.
“They’re learning to enhance and do better things like fine-dining wise,” Spears said. “Whatever they learn they can take that to the dining facility and influence the other ones to do it.”
Time management and efficiency were critical. As the clock counted down, judges called out the remaining time over a bullhorn.
“They’re doing pretty good; everyone has different strengths and weaknesses,” Spears said.
The competition wasn’t just about the cooking, the three-day event started with an Army Physical Fitness Test and a range. The last day of the event, Soldiers went before a board to test their Army knowledge.
“I’ve never done this competition; it’s actually my first time. I’m really scared at first because it’s three days,” said Spc. Ivon Perez, assigned to 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st AD. “It’s a great experience, really. I think the salad portion was the hardest. I was thinking I should do a regular salad but it’s really hard to decide what I wanted to do in a short amount of time.”
After the points were tallied, Sgt. Kaiden Nguyen, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, won the noncommissioned officer title and Spc. Ivon Perez won the Soldier portion. Both will go on to compete against other quarterly winners later this year and attempt to earn the title “Iron Chef of the Year.”
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