Food-service specialists with the 3rd Infantry Division and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield dining facilities took home top honors in the 37th annual culinary competition held Feb. 28-March 9 at Fort Lee, Va.
This consolidated team won chef of the year, student chef of the year, student team, the knowledge bowl and installation of the year, said Sgt. Maj. David Turcotte, chief of Division Food Service and this year’s chef of the year. In all, the team’s 16 competitors won 21 gold medals, three silver medals and one bronze medal.
“Our guys will now go on to compete with civilian chefs in New York for the regional cook-off,” Turcotte said. “Then we hope to go on to the national competition in Orlando in July.”
Turcotte said the culinary competition — the largest in North America — involved both individual and team events, and showcased the talents of military chefs from all branches of service, including the most junior members in the culinary arts profession.
“I’ve always had an interest in food,” said Spc. Jacqueline Canidy, this year’s student chef of the year. “My specialty has been meats and main entrees, but I’ve also served as first cook and shift leader.”
Chief Warrant Officer 4 William Liggon, the division food advisor who provided logistical support for team members during the competition, said Canidy will continue training and preparing for the regional and — hopefully — the national competition. After that, he said, the command team will help her with her goal of staying in the Army as a food-service specialist.
“We start looking at soldiers (for the competition) around Thanksgiving,” Liggon said. “We started out with 24 soldiers then narrowed it down to these 16.”
Turcotte and Liggon especially were proud of the student team for winning its gold medal, as most of the team’s members have fewer than four years service in the Army or in food service.
The student team members included Canidy, team captain Spc. Jamieka Elliott, Spc. Will Lewis, Pfc. Chris Marion and Pfc. Aaron Vegh.
Turcotte, this year’s chef of the year, is a certified executive chef with more than 24 years in the Army.
“I’ve won (chef of the year) six of the seven times I’ve competed,” the Boston native said, adding that he prefers to talk about the accomplishments of his soldiers more than his own. “I haven’t thought too much about retiring because I’m having too much fun. Right now, I just want to continue putting good food on plates.”
Due to repeated deployments, this is the first consolidated team to compete in the culinary competition since 2007, and the first time 3rd ID/Stewart-Hunter has won the installation of the year award, he said. It also is the first time everyone on the team won gold.