December 19 2014 – Robert Fiumara
If you think that cooking competitions are only for reality shows that take place on Hollywood designer sets, think again! Recently, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, a culinary team tryout was held. Winners will compete in the Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event that will be held at Fort Lee in March 2015.
One of the competitors, Sgt. Andrew Shurden, has competed at the Fort Lee event twice before and hopes to do so again in 2015. If he does, he’ll join other food services specialists as they compete in eight events including: the Armed Forces Chef of the Year, Armed Forces Student Chef of the Year, nutrition cook-off, culinary exam, military kitchen competition, team buffet, student competitive training event, and dessert. Shurden’s Lewis-McChord team consists of eight team members – four student teammates and four alternates. The Armed Forces Chef of the Year is considered by many to be the most prestigious individual award that an Armed Forces chef can receive. Bragging rights include the honor of being named the best chef in the entire Armed Forces.
Competitors at Fort Lee are judged based upon the same criteria as the American Culinary Federation. Instead of just looking at cooking skills and the final result of the dishes, the judge’s main focus is how well the chef’s work in the kitchen and with their teammates. How well the food is cooked, the ingredients used, preparation, and final presentations are all secondary considerations. Shurden hopes that his success will come in the form of the Armed Forces Chef of the Year award. During competition for this award, chefs will have 75 minutes to prepare and plate a meal using a mystery ingredient.
Luckily, he has a lot of experience in the food industry. Before he joined the Army, Shurden, a Mississippi native, was a barbecue chef. Deciding to join the Army was easy, as Shurden knew he could still pursue his goals of becoming a chef while serving his country. Not only does Shurden compete but also he’s also willing to teach younger chefs kitchen techniques, even during competition. “I am more than happy to teach anyone about cooking,” he said. “Sharing what I know with others is as rewarding to me as knowing that someone enjoys the food I prepared.”
Competitors will find out in February if they were selected to compete in the March 2015 Military Arts Competitive Training Event.
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