Army Culinary Arts teams preps for culinary Olympics

Photo By Terrance Bell | Staff Sgt. Erica D. Melendres, U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team member, drains a lemon into a pan of mushrooms during a practice session Nov. 20 at the McLaughlin Hall. Melendres is one of 11 USACAT members who will attend the IKA/Culinary Olympics in February.

FORT LEE, Va. (Nov. 19, 2019) — U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team members arrived here last week for the first of three training sessions to prepare them for February’s Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung Culinary Exhibition – one of the largest and most prestigious events of its kind in the world.

USACAT, as the team is commonly known, is traditionally comprised of the top performers from the annual Joint Culinary Training Event that takes place here in March. This year’s squad of 11 individuals from various services will represent the U.S. Armed Forces at the Feb. 14-19 meet – also known as the Culinary Olympics – in Stuttgart, Germany.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Eveline Rosado-Haliday, this year’s team manager, is a proven culinarian, leader and administrator, and she has tons of experience feeding troops in the operational Army. While acknowledging the challenges of putting together a team from installations all over the country, from all services and with all levels of experience under a compressed training schedule, she is overwhelmingly positive about USACAT’s potential and chances.

“I think we have a great selection of well-trained culinarians,” she said. “A few of them I have worked with since I came aboard, and some of them I’ve worked with at other assignments. So, I can’t wait to see how, as a team, they bring it all together and collectively compete in the military category of the IKA/Culinary Olympics.”

Rosado-Haliday, who became team manager in April when she arrived here from her last assignment, might be described as intensely enthusiastic. The trait seems to surface anytime she talks of the team’s prospects.

“I know they can do anything they set their minds to,” she said. “I know when we fly out there, we’re gunning for gold. All I ask of them is to do their best, which I know they can do.”

USACAT has been quite successful in the past. In its last 2016 competition (the Culinary Olympics is staged every other year), the team earned four gold medals and one bronze. Rosado-Haliday said the onus is on her to help continue the team’s success.

“There is more pressure on myself to ensure the members are provided all the resources needed to compete and stand up to the team’s legacy and to devise a well-working training plan to keep it competitive on an international level,” she said.

In that undertaking, Rosado-Haliday said she has reached out to previous managers and team members to “get advice on the direction the team is going, develop something different (to stimulate enthusiasm), and identify the best way to keep the team well-energized and competitive,” she said.

Having never been a USACAT team member and never assigned to the schoolhouse as an instructor, Rosado-Haliday might be considered an outsider. As such, she said everything about the team is new to her.

“I’m surprised about everything,” she said.

Once thing is the attention to detail apparent in international competition.

“Working in a dining facility – yes it has to be presentable because ‘you eat with your eyes’ – but with USACAT and how they prepare and place certain items, you have to be very meticulous in how you’re plating. It has to be the same for each and every plate versus having a line pan full of rice, mash potatoes or steaks lined up (in a DFAC). It is a little different doing it on an individual scale … the attention to detail is amazing.”

To achieve the level of detail to win, the team will be able to lean on experience. USACAT has at least three members who competed in the 2016 event – Staff Sgt. Marc Susa and Sergeants 1st Class Kevin Arwood and Sarah Perry.

Others team members have earned accolades at the JCTE, some of them going back a few years.

USACAT’s current training session began Nov. 14. It concludes Saturday. The other two training sessions are Dec. 11-18 and Jan. 25 – Feb. 2. The team is scheduled for travel to Germany shortly thereafter.

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