CAMP HOVEY, South Korea – As the grill heats up, premium steaks are are laid down for eagerly waiting soldiers. The sizzling meat creates a familiar sound for some waiting patrons. Aroma from the steaks fills the kitchen and spreads throughout the dining facility.
Anxious and hungry soldiers line-up outside the Iron Café, waiting patiently for the grand reopening of the only dining facility on Camp Hovey in anticipation of a delectable feast meant for the motely crew of soldiers and civilians.
Pvt. Benjamin Flores, a San Jose, Calif., native and a food service specialist with the 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, and Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Ashmead, the senior enlisted leader for the 1st ABCT, with the help of the American Forces Network Eagle and an overly-sized pair of scissors, the ceremonial red ribbon was cut, declaring the DFAC open for business.
“The World’s Greatest Café shut down and the staff was consolidated with the Iron Café,” said Sgt. 1st Class Morris Mackey, a food service adviser with the 1st ABCT. “Consolidating the two DFACs allowed us to provide better service and a higher quality of food to the Iron Team soldiers and other patrons throughout Area I.”
Coming together under one roof allowed more staff to work each shift, creating opportunities to serve more patrons per meal.
“Before, when we were operating with two DFACs, we saw a few hundred soldiers per meal, but the lines were long and both DFAC staffs and all shifts were stretched thin,” said Mackey. “The consolidation was a good move for everyone. It allows us to provide a higher quality of service to thousands of soldiers daily.
“If we don’t cater to our soldiers then they will waste their money off-post on a less quality of food and service,” he said.
At the opening, the café chefs unleashed a few of their seasoned trade secrets and enticed the gathering with a four-star meal.
“Having extra hands in the pot will help to increase our productivity while giving us a little more time to be creative,” said Spc. Annabelle Hallenbeck, a food service specialist from the 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st ABCT. “We have a few regular cakes behind the glass right now but that’s nothing; there are soldiers in the kitchen right now making a red velvet cake from scratch. We’re definitely prepared to bring some good home cooking to the soldiers on Camp Hovey.”
While the Iron Café’s top chefs supervised the junior cooks and walked around the DFAC, several food service specialists helped to divert the AFN Eagle from its stuffed turkey cousins on serving line, another local legend stood by watching the soldiers enjoy their meals..
Sgt. Rodriquez Bracey, from Warsaw, N.C., a food service noncommissioned officer with the 1st Bn., 15th FA Regiment, 1st ABCT, is best known for his ability to create art from food. His last tantalizing food piece was a large Indianhead sculpture displayed during the last Thanksgiving’s holiday meal. Although he didn’t prepare any displays for the opening, Bracey said he enjoys creating special pieces for the DFAC.
“It is an opportunity and I just jump on it,” said Bracey. “It's exciting, it allows you to get out of your element a bit.”
Bracey hopes his future display pieces will help Iron soldiers realize how important they are to the food service soldiers.
Soldiers were able to feast until they their duties recalled them to work. Although the operating hours will remain the same for the DFAC, patrons can expect an increase in productivity and service.