A cut above: Making food taste better

(U.S. Air Force photo)
Staff Sgt. Joshua Pallardy, evening shift supervisor at the Aragon Dining Facility, sculpts food for service at the Aragon. Pallardy believes something as simple as cutting vegetables differently, as he did in a recent knife cutting demo, cues the brain to think the food tastes different.

By Margie Arnold

21st Force Support Squadron

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — He was at a Boy Scout summer camp when he heard someone say, “I wish the food tasted better.” That was when Staff Sgt. Joshua Pallardy, who was a dishwasher at the time, knew he wanted to do just that — make food in general taste better.

He asked the head cook at camp if he could start cooking. She said yes, and he’s been improving the taste of food ever since.

“To me it’s all about the customer being happy. If you come to my restaurant or my dining facility, I want you to leave happy,” said Pallardy, the evening shift supervisor at the Aragon Dining Facility. “Ultimately I want people to eat at my place. I want the food to be phenomenal so that you’ll brag about it and want to come back.”

His love of good food originated with his grandmother, who loved to cook — but just for the family. He, on the other hand, loves to cook for everybody.

“If I could, I would cook for the whole world,” said Pallardy, “because I believe that a good meal influences how we feel about what comes next in the day… or that evening. It sets the mood.”

After high school, he studied the culinary arts at a trade school for two years and then studied at the Culinary Institute of America. In 2009, he competed in the American Culinary Federation — Armed Forces Culinary Competition, his very first culinary competition, and won a silver medal for his Asian-glazed pork tenderloin stuffed with wild mushrooms. It was the first time an Air Force chef had ever won a medal at the competition.

His military career took him to the Pentagon where he cooked for several of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Marine Gen. Peter Pace, and Adm. Mike Mullen, and his dream is to cook aboard Air Force One.

When speaking about his current assignment at Peterson AFB, Pallardy said, “I love the leadership at the Aragon and in the squadron because they’re willing to listen to new ideas.”

While the food and menus in all Air Force dining facilities conform to the same recipes and taste, Pallardy encourages the Airmen working there to exercise their creativity by something as simple as cutting the vegetables differently, as he did in a recent knife cutting demo. The visual differences cue the brain to think the food is different.

“Instead of mashed potatoes heaped on a plate, pipe them out into a pyramid,” he said. “I want to go above and beyond what the normal person would do, go above the basics.”

Does he have a favorite recipe? Well, not really. His mother told him that a recipe is a guide, and he believes that anything you make you can make better.

“The more complex it is, the more I enjoy it — molecular gastronomy. That’s why they call it culinary arts,” said Pallardy. “Creating great food is an art.”

(Pallardy has been named the 21st FSS Sustainment Star for September 2012.)

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