JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD,Wash. – With a pinch of spice, a team of culinary artists in the 542nd Maintenance Company, 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 593rd Sustainment Brigade served up their finest cuisine during a competition for a Philip A. Connelly award on Lewis North, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Nov. 17.
“Philip A. Connelly was an innovator in food service traditions and trends. He thought military people should have excellent quality of food and that’s what this competition is about; determining the best in Army food service,” said competition evaluator James Riddle of International Food Service Executives Association.
The team of food service specialists faced their final challenge on a long battle for victory while competing for the Department of the Army’s Philip A. Connelly Award for excellence in Army food service in the field kitchen category.
“It feels great, not because we made it to this level but because of all the hard work that we all put in to get here. To make it this far is a big accomplishment,” said Panama City, Panama, Sgt. 1st Class Doreen Weed, the team’s senior food operations sergeant. “It’s a lot of hard work but the payoff is great, whether you win or not, just the knowledge you gain from doing this kind of competition is great.
The soldiers, representing the ‘Bulldog Café’, faced five other field feeding teams around the world for the DA title after being deemed the best field kitchen team of the 593rd Sust. Bde., I Corps and the U.S. Army Forces Command combined.
“To even place as a finalist at the DA level Connelly says that you are the best of the best Army-wide and that you’ve proven in the local regions that you know what combat field feeding is all about,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ellen M. Magras, who is celebrating her last evaluation with this year’s competition. “This shows that you know the aspects of running an efficient food service operation with the resources provided and that you have the expertise and desire to go out there and be winners.”
The team started the day early by heating pots, starting grills and carefully preparing the breakfast meal out of their Mobile Kitchen Trailer under the evaluators’ vigilant eyes.
“That’s the smell of success,” proudly exclaimed New Orleans, La., native Pfc. Wendell Randall, food service team member, as the aroma filled the air.
“Now I’ll be the judge of that,” replied Riddle.
The competition tested every aspect of field feeding, from meal preparation to sanitation and security during both breakfast and lunch meals.
“Without teamwork nobody eats,” explained Lexington, S.C., native, Spc. Shane D. Padgett, one of the members of the team. “Food service brings the morale of the entire Army up, and if you don’t enhance the food you are not enhancing anyone’s life.”
The three judges of the IFSEA keenly observed every aspect of the field environment to ensure their evaluations were as thorough as possible.
“Everybody brings the same concept but a different flavor to this competition,” said evaluator Sgt. Maj. Reginald Uzzell, chief food operations management non-commissioned officer, IFSEA. “Most times, it’s that extra personal kick that gets a team the win.”
After the competition, the evaluation team compiles their findings, results are sent to Fort Lee, Va. and the finalists are announced at sometime after Dec. 15, Riddle said.
“What we want to know is if these guys can go to a combat zone and safely, according to regulations, combat field feed,” added Magras.
The winning teams in each category are awarded a trip San Diego, Calif., where they receive recognition at the annual Philip A. Connelly ceremony.
“To me, winning the DA Philip A. Connelly Award would be like winning the super bowl of all super bowls, you can’t beat that,” said Padgett. “It says that you tested your skills against the best in the Army and came out on top. I would be proud for everyday of the rest of my life to be a part of that.”