Cooking Up Success

Photo By Staff Sgt. Christy Parker | U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Meier of the 908th Field Feeding Platoon, Iowa National Guard takes a break from prepping food for upcoming events at the Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE), in Fort Lee, Virginia, March 6, 2023. The JCTE is the largest military culinary competition in North America and is designed to promote growth in the profession and provide an opportunity for military chefs to raise culinary excellence. (Photo by U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Christy Parker)

FORT LEE, VA, UNITED STATES

03.09.2023

Story by Staff Sgt. Christy Parker 

214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment 

FORT LEE, VA–Making mud pies with cow manure may sound a little…messy but growing up with limited funds in split households and three older brothers, prepared Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Meier of the Iowa National Guard, for everlasting life lessons.
“Mom was definitely on the poverty end of the spectrum,” said Meier. “Growing up in that background, we learned the true value of what money was and how far a dollar could stretch.”
Meier has come a long way since his childhood, and now finds himself as a participant in the 47th Joint Culinary Training Exercise at Fort Lee, Virginia. The JCTE is the largest military culinary competition in the United States and is designed to showcase military chefs from all over the world.
This is the first year the Army National Guard has participated.
“To be here is a huge honor and a huge accomplishment, not even for myself, just for the National Guard in general,” said Meier. “To represent what us part-timers or weekenders can actually do, and show the skill set that is in the National Guard, is just unbelievable.”
Day one of the JCTE, Meier prepared a 4-course meal for the Armed Forces Chef of the Year event, which involved a “Mystery Basket” of food given to each team. He mentioned the stress involved in the fast-paced, timed event, compiled with servers, judges and other competing teams an ear shot away.
His mother reached out to him that evening, to check how he was doing and told him that her “curiosities were kinda brewing.”
“She has been one of the biggest supporters for me, military wise,” said Meier.
At the age of 6, his mother taught him how to use a stove, and from that moment on he began cooking for his whole family.
“I’ve had a strong interest in cooking from very, very young,” Meier added.
In 2008, at the age of 14, Meier got a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant. He laughs as he recalls the story of informing the manager, how the current cook was quitting, and how he should hire him for the position.
Meier and his mother still cook together in her kitchen to this day. He spoke of a 17-month deployment that he completed and how he and his mom didn’t miss a beat in the kitchen, once he was finally back home.
Meier’s other life experiences have also helped with the stress and the unknowns of this competition.
When Meier was very young, his mother left a nursing job she loved, to fulfill her dream of opening up a flower shop, however shortly after, his parents divorced. To see how his mom and dad handled it, Meier explained, helped him stay strong when it happened to him during his deployment.
“You can’t let it bring you down, “I’m not the first and I won’t be the last. You gotta keep a positive outlook because then you can help other people.”
Meier was also taught by his dad how to hunt. He and his 3 brothers helped their dad raise cattle, hogs, and chickens so they didn’t have to buy meat from the grocery store.
“We grew up buying jeans for 25 cents and shoes for 2 dollars. Somebody else wore them but they were still in good shape!”
Though life had changed for Meier at a young age, he shares how he never felt as though he was missing out on things. “Being an adult now, understanding what mortgage payments are like, and what car payments are, you learn to gain more respect for what they did and what they sacrificed. “
“I know where I came from and not to take for granted what I have,” said Meier. “But I also worked hard. I have strived to be successful.”
Meier’s passion for cooking and his ability to create meals for his family at the age of 6, laid the foundation for him to help support his team in earning a variety of awards at the JRTC. He earned a Commendable award for his abilities in the Armed Forces of the Year event, a Commendable for his Celebration Cake, and a Silver for the Mobile Kitchen Trailer event, that he and his team members worked on together.

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