by Andrea Sutherland
Growing up, if Josh Hoyt didn’t like his mother’s cooking, she’d tell him to make his own dinner.
“My mother was never the greatest cook,” said Hoyt, a corporal with 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “I started cooking (at) 6 years old, standing on the back of a chair.”
When Hoyt joined the Army, he decided to go into food services. Last year, he competed in the annual culinary arts competition that pits 25 military installations from all services against each other for a two-week competition.
Hoyt won silver and bronze medals in the competition and when his captain asked him to join Fort Carson’s culinary arts team for a second year, he was determined to take his cooking to the next level.
“This year I knew what to expect,” said Hoyt, who won three gold and two silver medals at this year’s competition held Feb. 26 to March 12 at Fort Lee, Va.
Fort Carson’s team, made up of 12 Army cooks, won numerous awards including 14 gold, eight silver and five bronze medals in addition to several “commendable” awards.
“The whole team came together in December,” said Sgt. Travis Burton, Company G, 2nd Bn., 77th FA Reg., 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div.
Burton said that postwide tryouts among personnel in food services were held in October. Hopefuls had to prepare three meals with ingredients provided in a “mystery basket.” Of the 25 Soldiers that competed, 11 made the team, which is headed by Staff Sgt. Joseph Mullins, 2nd Bn., 12th Inf. Reg., 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div.
The team worked for several weeks to prepare for the competition.
“It required a lot of hours,” Burton said. “We had a couple 24-hour shifts to prepare the cold-case display.”
The team members admitted they weren’t sure they could get all the work done in time for the competition, especially when it came to their centerpiece – an elaborate display with the theme “Around the World in 80 Days.”
“At first there was a lot of doubt that we could complete this,” said Spc. Samantha Gaytan, Headquarters and Support Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, 4th Inf. Div.
Gaytan said the piece took two-and-a-half months of work and required a lot of detailed handwork.
“We used cardboard, bamboo skewers, poster board and trash bags,” Gaytan said. “The last piece, the book, took two-and-a-half days and it was all painted by hand. My teammates really helped me out. I’m proud of myself and my team.”
Gaytan won gold for her centerpiece.
Other top awards went to Spc. Amber Davis, Company F, 2nd Bn., 12th Inf. Reg., 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div., who received gold for the Junior Chef of the Year competition.
Fort Carson also won bragging rights in the “field competition,” which required chefs to prepare meals for 80 people, including an appetizer, entree and dessert, using only the equipment in a containerized kitchen. The teams had four hours to complete the “fine dining meal,” served restaurant-style. Fort Carson placed third out of 25 teams.
Overall, Fort Carson placed fifth in the competition. The Pentagon team won first place.
Now that the competition is over, the team’s Soldiers are returning to their duties.
“Other posts have year-round teams,” said Hoyt, who is set to deploy with 2nd Brigade later this year. “We go back to our day-to-day lives after the competition. Next year, 1st and 3rd Brigade Soldiers will have to carry on the tradition.”