The Bayonet

Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2014

Sledgehammer chefs sizzle during Connelly Competition

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Army cooks are usually the first ones up in the morning and some of the last ones out at night. They work hard to prepare three meals a day, sometimes seven days a week, to ensure Soldiers are fed and ready for whatever the day may bring them.

Hard work paid off for cooks with the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, who run the Gibson Dining Facility on Kelley Hill. On March 4, food service evaluators with the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Va., spent the day grading the Soldiers as the final step in the Department of the Army’s 46th Annual Philip A. Connelly Competition.

“This competition recognizes excellence in food service,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Princido Texidor, the Army’s top food service adviser with the JCCoE. “It is like the Super Bowl of food services … (The competition) allows Soldiers to showcase their skills and take pride in what they do.”

The Philip A. Connelly Program is regulated by Army Regulation 30-22, The Army Food Service Program. The objectives of the program are to promote and improve Army food service through awareness with incentives and competition, encourage and recognize deserving units for superb performance, award individuals for stellar management practices and honor the traditions of the Philip A. Connelly Awards Program.

In 2013, the Soldiers clinched the regional title by finishing first at the Connelly Competition with Fort Bragg’s 406th Army Field Support Brigade.

The win solidified the 3rd ABCT’s spot as one of the top six DFACs out of 189 facilities Army wide. For the Sledgehammer cooks, this was their final chance to shine and show the evaluators what they can do. Grading was conducted in 10 areas, including supervision, administration, food safety and protection, command support, attitude and appearance of personnel, and food preparation and quality.

“Sanitation and food preparation are a big piece of the competition,” said Master Sgt. James Moore, an evaluator and program manager.

“A bad meal could easily ruin an entire unit if (the cooks) aren’t careful with handling and preparing the food.”

Not only were the JCCoE evaluators ensuring the Soldiers were properly handling and preparing all foods, but DFAC manager, Sgt. 1st Class Crawford Cox, with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, spent the day making his rounds throughout the facility, watching and mentoring the younger Soldiers on his staff. For a Soldier new to the kitchen, the pressure to perform in a high-level competition could mean that things are easily looked over, explained Cox. But, he said, he knew the Soldiers would finish the competition strong.That sentiment seemed to be echoed by the entire evaluation staff.

“We look for planning, coordination, training, dedication and motivation,” Texidor said. “We’ve seen it all here today.

The Soldiers are motivated when they are cooking. We have a lot of questions for them, but they also have questions for us. They want to learn.”

However, the learning experience isn’t just for the Soldiers. Texidor said during every evaluation, he and his staff learn something new — a new recipe or a new technique — because every person has their own way of cooking.

“Even though regulation governs the food service program, Soldiers will find ways to get creative, and that’s what we encourage,” Texidor said.

In addition to sanitation, preparation and pure determination, the Soldiers are only as strong as the support they receive from their command, said Texidor.

“The command has demonstrated that they fully support this food service team and are committed to ensuring the cooks are taken care of,” he said.

“A command who supports Soldiers 100 percent is key is anything, and it’s been outstanding to see here.”

The Gibson DFAC is in competition with facilities in Hawaii, Texas, Washington, Germany and Korea. The winner of the 2014 competition will be announced in May.

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