Competition seasons Soldier’s cooking creativity

1 / 1 Hide Caption – This serving line is where Sgt. Shastian Schad's culinary arts go to feed the Soldiers who consume an estimated 1,500 meals a day at the Guns & Rockets Dining Facility. (Photo Credit: James Brabenec) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT SILL, Okla., Jan. 24, 2019 — Four years into her Army career, Sgt. Shastian Schad, a 92G Culinary Specialist at the Guns & Rockets Dining Facility (DFAC) here, said she’s on course with her expectations of what an Army career could be.

She also believes there’s room to improve and do better at her job.

But, this position is more than a job for this native of Great Bend, Kan.

“I think it’s a passion: I love to cook and want to keep doing it,” said Schad who is assigned to the 100th Brigade Support Battalion. “Whenever I’m bored, I get more creative and try to do different things with different products.”

Schad expressed her satisfaction at creating a bacon-wrapped roast chicken breast inside which nestled a mozzarella cheese stick.

Growing up with a father who worked long hours, Schad said dinner preparations fell on her two brothers or herself.

“When I was little I always wanted to do something to help,” she said. “So we would all take turns or try to help each other.”

As she matured, Schad said she would take control and tell her brothers she would cook the meal. “Everything had instructions, so I just followed them and used what we had; it usually turned out good.”

Schad recently returned from the III Corps Chef of the Quarter competition at Fort Hood, Texas. This was her first opportunity to test her skills against her culinary peers.

“At first I wasn’t really sure about it because I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But, now that I did it, I’m really happy I went and want to push others to go, too.”

Working at a DFAC that regularly plates 1,500 meals a day, one might think that’s enough for a young NCO to deal with. Instead, the III Corps competition offered something new for Schad.

“It’s stepping out of your comfort zone and learning how to handle things under pressure,” she said. “When you’re racing against time and you have to make three different plates for something, I think it’s really good to see what you can do.”

Receiving a covered basket, Schad opened it to see what items she had, to prepare an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert understanding that every one must be used. Finding fruit, she decided they could be the foundation of a cake. Time management skills kicked in as she combined the ingredients and poured it into a cake pan.

“That was one of the first things I did and put it in the oven,” she said. “While it was cooking, I started preparing the other things I needed for my appetizer and my entrée.”

The basket also contained two meats, perfect for her remaining requirements.

“Whatever one I knew would take the longest, I started cooking first,” she said.

As that progressed, Schad concentrated on the third item, assembling its ingredients and then cooking to have it completed about the same time as the other two requirements.

Given the pressure of competing against her peers, would Schad fall back on a previous recipe or strike out in a new direction?

“Due to the time limit we had, I wanted to do what would be the quickest, but also the most creative,” she said. “Many people were watching so I was feeling a lot of pressure.”

Though she exercised her quick thinking skills and concocted a worthy product, Schad’s first command-level competition didn’t culminate as a blue ribbon moment.

Back in her duties here as the training NCO, Schad teaches Soldiers the skills to produce good, hearty fare for their daily customers. She said a production schedule and recipe cards help everyone stay on track with the daily menu. Throughout the process, teamwork further ensures success.

“You might see NCOs standing next to a Soldier asking what step they are on for a particular recipe card,” she said.

Should a step be wrong, the NCO would then model the correct thing to do, then ensure the Soldier performed to the standard. Often, that NCO is Schad, armed with a checklist walking around ensuring all preparations are going by the book.

“As I’m training them, I’m teaching myself again and again, refreshing those skills,” she said.

However, since this is culinary arts, Schad said leadership at Guns & Rockets embraces new ideas Soldiers may put forth. She added they want the products they serve to be less like a dining facility and more like a restaurant one might dine at off post.

“We want people to stay, not just come in, eat, and run,” she said.

Should Schad dash out the door, it’s just because she also cooks for her family at home where she also prepares for her future. Staff sergeant is calling and Schad said she’s diligent to improve her physical training scores along with studying for promotion.

“Ten years from now I hope to be a culinary arts instructor at Fort Lee (Va.),” she said.

In the meantime, the III Corps challenge whetted her appetite. Fortunately, it is a quarterly competition.

“I hope to go again, soon,” she said.

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