By Sam CampbellJanuary 29, 2020
“You know how when you’re in second grade, they ask you what you want to be when you grow up? You know what I said? ‘A chef.'”
Bill Moffitt is Fort Leonard Wood’s food program manager, and his 30-plus-year career has taken him from washing dishes at a steakhouse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to serving generals at the Pentagon’s executive dining rooms during his decorated career in the Air Force.
“That was fun,” he said while flipping through photos of gilded D.C. table spreads and top officers beside ice carvings he made. “I see people that I’ve fed up there now on the news.”
Indeed, Moffitt said his repertoire of notable dinner guests includes retired generals and military-grade celebrities like Colin Powell and the former vice president, Dan Quayle.
Even NFL teams have been host to Moffitt’s menu, he said. In the early 1990s, Pentagon superiors sent him on a professional development trip he wouldn’t soon forget.
“They sent me downtown to work at The Alpine restaurant,” he said. “It (was) a 5-star Italian restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C., where they feed congressmen, senators.”
“The owner knew the Washington Redskins,” he added. “When I was working there, they had me feed the entire … team. So, we prepared all the food in this restaurant, and then we actually went down into their locker room and delivered it to them. We were making these whole chickens, the way they do Italian-style. Some of those linemen ordered five chickens, just for one guy.”
Cue hearty laughter, the kind one might hear at a barbecue.
Moffitt later added — with such nonchalance and finesse it was like the verbal equivalent of a guitarist’s hammer-on — that he served the prince of Kuwait before, too.
There’s no way he could have topped that, right?
“I took a trip as an enlisted aide with General Chuck Horner,” he said. “I basically went on one of his trips as a flight steward. I cooked all the meals for the flights. We flew over to Hawaii, Hong Kong, Japan, Guam, the Marshall Islands.”
A self-described mountain man and native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Moffitt’s biography lists accolades like the John L. Hennessy Traveler award, which designated him as one of the top two chefs in the U.S. Air Force at the time.
“That was the start of my career, right there,” he said.
But don’t ask Moffitt what his favorite food is, unless the goal is to receive the humblest of responses.
“Jeepers — I like so much. I like to cook and I like to eat, obviously,” he joked while patting his belly.
According to his current team at Fort Leonard Wood, Moffitt’s love for his work is evident.
“Bill is my boss, but also a mentor,” said Beverly Legett, a food service equipment manager. “Often times, you run across people who are merely doing a job — I can honestly say that his overall attitude when it comes to the food program is passionate yet firm.”
Moffitt’s current role on the installation is far more administrative than his days of ice carving and cooking for four-star generals, but, he said, it’s even more challenging.
“We have over 140-some different units from all over the country that come in here and train, so we have to assign them to different dining halls,” he said. “It’s a $34 million contract. We buy $40 million worth of food, and all the dining halls have accounts.”
He said there are many moving parts, which makes every day busy, but he is thankful to have a hand in supporting everyone’s missions.
“It’s rewarding to be involved in such a big thing,” he said. “With food service, you (affect) everybody on the installation.”
Moffitt looked back on his career, recalling experiences from asking to be guaranteed a food service position when he first enlisted in the Air Force to working alert kitchens for B-52 bombers at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and to now — accounting for and responding to nearly nonstop phone calls from his building behind the post office.
“Bill is a go-getter,” Legett said. “He isn’t just a big voice out there. He has the knowledge to back up every idea.”
Moffitt said he wouldn’t change a thing.
“Best thing I ever did was stay in,” he said. “All the experiences, the opportunities — it’s just been a great career.”
He said he looks forward to retirement in the future and spending time with his family.
He and his high school sweetheart have been married since he finished boot camp in 1980. They have two children, both of whom love their dad’s game-day appetizers, he said. Of their favorites is what Moffitt calls “the Billy Bob Special” — chicken and cheese rolled into a flour tortilla and topped with homemade chili sauce.
“It’s easy for me to make a recipe,” he said. “I’m the type of guy who can go into a cupboard and just create stuff.”
But for those who may find the kitchen daunting, Moffitt offered some advice.
“Practice with recipes. Know recipes that are popular and start out that way,” he said. “Experiment.”