FORT LEE, Va. – Team Hawaii for the fourth year in a row was recognized as the Culinary Team of the Year and 332 American Culinary Federation (ACF) medals were awarded to more than 200 military chefs at the 43rd annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) awards ceremony Mar. 16 here.
“It’s an honor and privilege to speak to you today, I wish I could have spent more time (at JCTE), I looked online and my mouth was watering,” said Lt. Gen. Aundre F. Piggee, Headquarters Department of the Army, deputy chief of staff, G4, Pentagon, D.C., at the opening of the awards ceremony. “I applaud your competition, you are trained, highly qualified professionals in our operational forces.
“You all are winners by just participating, you now are better as individuals and will take back your knowledge and make your organizations better,” he said. “It is great to see all the services and our coalition partners, nothing we do on the battlefield is alone, we do it together.”
JCTE started Mar. 9 with the Armed Forces Chef of the Year event and continued until Mar. 15 with the culmination of the International Two-Chef Culinary Challenge. The exercise, administered by the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, is the largest ACF-sanctioned competition in North America. All the judging is done by ACF-certified judges who volunteered their time over eight days to provide feedback and critique the participants. This year’s exercise showcased the talent of 232 military chefs from all military services around the globe to include four international teams.
“This week was about getting better, not only self but our units, the Army and all the organizations represented,” said Brig. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, Quartermaster General and commandant, The Quartermaster School. “The 13 ACF judges were here to help you get better, to transfer their knowledge.”
ACF President and lead judge, Stafford Decambre, was on hand to assist in handing out the medals and awards.
“This is a huge competition that you were a part of, the quality (of the entries) was extraordinary,” he said. “Use this experience to develop your professional networks, to commit to growth, focus on learning.
“Define your cuisine and welcome feedback,” said Decambre, who has been a JCTE judge for 13 years. “Make your opportunities, get involved, cook to learn, have passion and love – you deserve everything you have received.”
This year, more than 2,800 people were on hand to watch 26 teams, with 450 entrants, competing from all five service branches and four countries. Seventeen teams vied for Culinary Team of the Year with Team Coast Guard as the runner up to Team Hawaii; Team Coast Guard student team was recognized as the best team with all five members having less than two years in culinary arts; Staff Sgt. Marc Susa, culinary arts specialist, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, was recognized as best master chef; Sgt. 1st Class Steven Behr, culinary arts specialist, Fort Carson, Colorado, won best Armed Forces Chef; and Spc. Naya Pender, culinary arts specialist, Team Europe, won best student chef. Team Coast Guard student team, Susa and Pender are now eligible to attend the ACF National Convention & Show July 15 – 19 in New Orleans.
For the first time, JCTE recognized a Best in Show individual, Sgt. 1st Class Lagena Boggs, Fort Drum, New York, was recognized as one who stood out to the judges through her workmanship, attitude, passion, exemplary future leadership and epitomized culinary excellence. Five countries — United States, France, Great Britain, Canada and Germany — participated in the international challenge with Team Germany coming out victorious.
Along with testing their skills in one of the many categories, 13 service members also tried for a spot on the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team. The USACAT is the military’s national culinary team and offers members the opportunity to compete in international-level events like the Culinary Olympics in Europe, while sharpening and broadening their skills. Pender and Spc. Kaitlyn Tran, Fort Carson, were selected for the Team.
Competing chefs were judged based on ACF guidelines, they were not competing against each other but against industry standards. Those who exceeded industry standards were given medals – 56 gold medals, 135 silver medals and 141 bronze medals were presented to military chefs who met the judging criteria.
The awardees were:
Culinary Team of the Year:
Runner up: Team Coast Guard
Judges Award, Best in Show:
Sgt. 1st Class Lagena Boggs, Fort Drum
Armed Forces Master Chef of the Year:
Staff Sgt. Marc Susa, Joint Base Lewis-McChord
Armed Forces Chef of the Year:
Sgt. 1st Class Steven Behr, Fort Carson
Armed Forces Student Chef of the Year:
Spc. Naya Pender, Team Europe
Army Enlisted Aide of the Year:
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Flemister, U.S. Army Cyber School of Excellence, Fort Gordon, Ga. Flemister serves as the enlisted aide to Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison, Jr., commanding general, U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon.
Student Team Competition:
Team Coast Guard
International Team of the Year:
Military Hot Food Kitchen – five-person team utilizing the Army mobile kitchen trailer, preparing a three-course meal for 45 guests:
Nutritional Hot Food Challenge – celebrates National Nutrition Month and healthy cooking:
Sgt. Joshua Hoyt and Spc. Huy Nguyen, both from Fort Drum
Winners in special categories included:
Best in Class – (Cat P, Contemporary Pastry Professional):
Sgt. Samantha Poe, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia
Best in Class – (Cat K, Contemporary Cooking Professional):
Staff Sgt. Michael Allen, Team Europe
Best Exhibit in Show (Cat. D, Culinary Showpiece):
Sgt. Klinton Bautista, Joint Base Lewis-McChord
Judges Special Award (Cold Food Table)
Competing service members are afforded the opportunity to earn ACF certifications, a recognized industry-standard credential. These credentials help the chefs provide better service to their customers in the dining facilities, as well as acceptance in the civilian sector when the service member transitions out of the military.