Story and photos by Sgt. Jonathan C. Thibault
4th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
The aroma of delicious cuisines filled the air at the Culinary Arts Academy, Feb. 10, as Fort Carson Culinary team members sliced and diced their ways to perfection to prepare for a military and international competition.
The team is preparing to take on other national and international culinary teams at the 39th Annual Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee, Va., March 8-14.
“We compete against Army teams as well as other military branches,” said Spc. Francisco Jaramillo, food service specialist, 204th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “We also are competing against military culinary teams from other countries such as France, Germany and Columbia.”
The team has worked many hours preparing to compete in many categories geared for everyone from beginners to veterans.
“The team has (spent) a lot of months and weekends preparing for this,” said Sgt. 1st Class Mark Vickery, Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Inf. Div. “They’ve been preparing for this since October. The team puts (in) at least 72 hours of training a week. The veteran and beginning competitors are well ahead of the learning curve because of the long, hard hours they’ve put in.”
The team consists of some prior competitors who are stepping up to the next level in the competition.
“This is my second competition,” said Jaramillo. “I was on the student team in my first competition. I medaled two silvers and three bronzes in that competition. This time, I am competing in the senior chef and cake decorating categories. I am also responsible for the menu of the field team competing.”
The student team members are new to the Army and competition, but are confident they will do well.
“Most of us on the student team have been in the Army for less than two years,” said Pfc. Monica Arana, 183rd Maintenance Company, 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade. “We have learned a lot just training for this competition. We are excited about the competition and ready to bring some medals back.”
The culinary team members said they find some things more challenging than others when preparing for the competition, but are very confident because of their extensive training.
“During the competition, a competitor usually has only 90 minutes to prepare a dish,” said Jaramillo. “It is nerve-wracking because you prepare it directly in front of them. This is why we train a lot, so when we have to do it, our performance will be flawless.”
The main category of the competition is a centerpiece display made of edible ingredients.
“It’s a category showing techniques on how to preserve food,” said Jaramillo. “We complete 80 percent of the display before the competition. We bring the pieces to competition and still take approximately 36 hours to complete the display.”
The team will do a practice run of its culinary skills and display its centerpiece at the Culinary Arts Academy Feb. 28, said Vickery.