Sizzling services competition heats things up
By Capt. Elaine Nowak, 107th Airlift Wing
/ Published April 22, 2010
Niagara Falls, NY -- After watching the Food Network's show "Iron Chef America," Tech. Sgt. Stephen Pease, dining hall supervisor, was inspired. He devised a plan to bring a similar competition to services during the April drill weekend. Just like in the show, the competitors were surprised just before their cooking time began with the secret ingredients. Each team was given three hours to prepare the meal. The two teams each consisted of one trainer and four chefs. The trainers gave advice to the chefs, but were not allowed to touch the food. The chefs were junior enlisted airmen. This challenge provided them with an excellent opportunity for learning and for fun.
"We have done really well in our inspections. These guys have worked cohesively as a team and it is almost a family atmosphere. At this time what we wanted to do was challenge them. This was a chance to get them to step it up," Sgt. Pease said.
A difficulty of this project was not only to have the competition, but to also conduct normal business. The crew who was not part of the competing teams had to take care of the rest of regular operations. This was no small undertaking, feeding over 300 airmen for lunch both Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday Team A prepared their meal. Team A's trainer was Tech. Sgt. John Eagan with food service specialists Airman 1st Class Heather Grimm, Senior Airmen Evelyn Orlowski, Joshua Asamoah, and Raymond Koehne. Their menu: Caramelized apple stuffed chicken breast with fontina and bing cherries served with glazed carrots. The esteemed panel of judges included Col. Timothy Vaughan, Lt. Colonels Linda Blaszak, Barry Griffith, and Patrick Roemer, and Master Sgt. Randall Shenefiel. The judges seemed to thoroughly enjoy their meal. Overheard from the judges' table were highly technical remarks such as "It's yummy" and "Wow."
Lt. Col. Roemer appreciated the visual presentation of the chicken saying, "The grill marks are perfect, nice and symmetrical."
Lt. Col Griffith enjoyed his meal. "The stuffing is killer," he said.
On Sunday it was Team B's turn. The team was led by trainer Tech. Sgt. Deonza Eady with food service specialists Staff Sgt. Patricia Fountaine, Senior Airmen David Siegel, Sarah Kowalczyk, and Emily Roy. Their menu: pork tenderloin with rum-molasses glaze and grilled pineapple-jalapeño sauce served with fried green beans.
Lt. Col. Blaszak enjoyed the entrée saying, "The pineapple is very tasty. It is a mixture of sweet and spicy with the jalapeño. Delicious!"
Sergeant Shenefiel enjoyed the out of the ordinary meal as well. "It's not just your regular chicken fingers," he said.
The dishes were judged by four categories; eat-ability, temperature, plating (presentation), and taste. Each category was worth five points for a total of 20 possible points. The prize for winning this food challenge was a plaque but, most of all, the winning team has earned bragging rights.
Team B emerged victorious, although reportedly, it was a very close match. The plating of the food seemed to be the differentiating factor. After all, sometimes it's all about the presentation.
Senior Airman Kowalczyk was part of the winning team. She described the competition as a team effort, with everyone putting in different ideas together.
"As the challenge went on, I got more excited. At the end, it was really neat to serve the judges and see that the team was behind you. It was really exciting," Senior Airman Kowalczyk said.
Senior Airman Koehne worked hard as part of Team A, relying heavily on communication with his teammates to complete the task.
"Overall, we all pulled together as a team, we usually work as a team, but I feel like we were even stronger in this competition," Senior Airman Koehne said.
"We'd absolutely love to do this competition again," Sgt. Pease said. Force support squadron hopes to make this an annual event.