Culinary specialists chop their way to the top

Photo By Maj. Gabriela Thompson | Sgt. Courtney Anderson (left) and Private 1st Class Jonathan Martinez placed first in their categories following a culinary competition Apr. 14, 2022 at Fort Hood, Texas.  



Story by Maj. Gabriela Thompson 

3d Cavalry Regiment Public Affairs Office 

FORT HOOD, Texas – Twenty culinary food specialists from 3d Cavalry Regiment competed in a cooking competition at Theodore Roosevelt Warrior Restaurant April 14, here.

Culinary specialists are in charge of preparing and serving large-scale meals while in garrison, in the field training or even deployed overseas.

“We hold these competitions quarterly because it’s important for the troopers to build confidence in their skills,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jigna Panchal, field feeding non-commissioned officer in charge for 3d Squadron, 3d Cavalry Regiment.

The food specialists gathered to receive their instructions before the competition. Similar to popular television cooking competitions, they were given a mystery basket full of ingredients they then had to turn into a meal ready to present for the judges.

“They had ground beef, bread, tomatoes, cherries, Brussel sprouts in there,” said Panchal.

With only one hour to prepare, cook and plate their dish, the kitchen was alive with action.

Once the hour was over, each culinary specialist took turns presenting and explaining their dish to the judges, describing how they used the ingredients.

The two groups were divided between non-commissioned officers and lower enlisted during the judging portion of the competition.

Initially a little stumped at all the ingredients, Sgt. Courtney Anderson – a native of Charleston, South Carolina – placed first in her category with her dish of meatballs served with Brussel sprouts and a cherry glaze.

“The mystery basket was really hard,” Anderson said.

Coming in first for the lower enlisted was Pfc. Jonathan Martinez of Los Angeles with his creative take on albondigas – commonly known as meatballs – with a tomato sauce and cherry-glazed Brussels sprouts.

“Trying to figure out what to do with all the ingredients was the hardest part for me,” said Martinez.

After recognizing both first and second places for both categories, the culinary specialists received some words of wisdom and encouragement from a seasoned non-commissioned officer.

“Be confident in who you are,” said Sgt. 1st Class Luz Simmons, senior culinary management for the Theodore Roosevelt Warrior Restaurant. “Soldiers want to come here to eat good food, so think of how you can take what you did today and use it.”

To learn more about how to become a culinary specialist, visit

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