CAMP NATHAN SMITH, Afghanistan – The Spartan soldiers of 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment eat better than the rest because their food service specialists are the best of the best in Regional Command South; proving it when they won 3rd Infantry Division’s Rocky’s Cooking Competition April 20 on Combat Outpost Terra Nova in Kandahar Province.
This was a competition within the RC-South military food service to see what soldiers can do with the items available in the Afghan deployment food catalog. The Spartan team found out it can do a gourmet meal, said Staff Sgt. Jessica Banks, 1-36 IN BN food service manager.
The team consisted of Banks, Spc. Casey Conely and Pvt. 1st Class Barry Johnson. Before the competition they brainstormed and conducted test runs for over three weeks, with help and suggestions from their fellow soldiers.
“Because we are the Spartans we wanted to go with a Spartan theme. We researched a lot, kept the menu gamey and practiced to get it just right,” said Conely.
When the judges arrived they were treated to selected scenes from the movie 300, a Spartan-themed skit, a beverage toast and even a soldier dressed in costume to join them during the meal.
It was the food which won the day for the team, with a menu consisting of: spiced agave, cranberry glazed Cornish hens, pecan-crusted trout with orange glaze, Basmati rice with cashews and raisins, pan-seared asparagus, sweet potato fries with Spartan sauce, spring salad and poached pears with pastry.
The team cooked for two hours and prepared to feed 200 soldiers.
“We are big competitors, but we cook this way in the chow hall or deployed,” said Johnson.
“The late nights preparing really paid off, but we did not get here on our own. Our battalion gave us so much support, so we put all that effort into winning,” said Conely.