By Sgt. Rodney Foliente
2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs,
4th Infantry Division
FORT CARSON, Colo. – Four Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, were among the 12-person Fort Carson team that took the Installation of the Year Award at the 33rd Annual U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee, Va., March 1-14.
This was the first time that Fort Carson took the prestigious trophy, along with 26 medals (8 gold, 11 silver, 7 bronze)— the most the post has ever won in one competition— and four other trophies.
"The competition and the judges were pretty tough," said Sgt. Steven Behr, food service noncommissioned officer with the 2nd BCT's Warhorse Dining Facility. He said they had to compete in more than 40 culinary categories against approximately 160 cooks representing all of the U.S. Armed Forces from all over the world.
This was the first time that the competition was open to all Armed Forces service members.
With competitions in field cooking, ice carving, individual and team challenges, the Fort Carson Soldiers warred against other service members with fanciful appetizers, artful entrees and decadent desserts.
For the buffet table competition, which was open for public viewing, the Fort Carson team produced a Western theme, with their food displayed around a life-size milk chocolate cowboy lounging and a white chocolate woman resting beneath her parasol.
"The whole experience was intense!" recalled Spc. David Luerssen, food service specialist with the Warhorse DFAC and first-time entrant in the competition. "It was hard work, long hours and extremely competitive."
Proving themselves to so many other chefs and winning the prestigious award filled the team with pride, said Behr, who has competed five times with Fort Carson at the annual event.
"It's an amazing and ecstatic feeling. We worked great as a team and constantly practiced. The motivation and enthusiasm was great and made winning first place even better," said Behr, a native of Succasunna, N.J.
"I learned a lot from the team," said Luerssen, from Long Island, N.Y. He said he honed a lot of basic skills and learned a lot of the finer culinary skills, from the preparation all the way through the presentation of the food.
The two Soldiers also placed a great deal of praise and thanks upon the team manager, Chief Warrant Officer David Longstaff, certified executive chef for Fort Carson.
"We couldn't have done it without his experience, training and vision," they both agreed.
They added that this type of competition and the training leading up to it, helps them excel at their skills; transforming cooking into an art form.
"It gives me greater experience to become a certified master chef one day," said Behr, who is currently working on executive chef certification.
Luerssen, who won junior chef of 2007 for Fort Carson, is currently working on his culinary certification and aspires to also continue to master chef status.
Both Soldiers encourage other cooks to take advantage of the free training, education and certification that the Army offers them.
The culinary training transfers to college credit and cooks can get certified while in the Army, which can be an expensive process as a civilian, added Behr. He plans to use his experience and certifications to work as a master chef after his Army career.
"I love training the Soldiers," said Behr, who has served almost 14 years in food service and deployed twice to Iraq. "More cooks should take advantage while in the Army and take the time to become a better cook."
This work, Fort Carson team wins Installation of Year at Army Culinary Arts Competition, by SGT Rodney Foliente, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.