Story by Cpl Naomi May on 03/12/2019U.S. Marines participated in the 44th Annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise at Fort Lee, Virginia, March 9 14, 2019.
The Marines competed alongside 200 military chefs in the largest American Culinary Federation (ACF)-sanctioned culinary competition in North America.
"This event not only enhanced the individual skills of the competitors; it reinforced the principles and leadership among our Marine Corps team," said Col. Howard Hall, the commanding officer of Weapons Training Battalion at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. "They were forced to build cohesion and leverage their individual strengths to overcome the stressors and challenges that were set forth in this competition."
The exercise aimed at improving force readiness across the military while also promoting military culinary excellence. Competitions included hot food challenges, live cooking displays, table displays, military masters competitions and more.
The Marine Corps Food Service Team has already earned awards in the chief of the year, nutrition, hot food kitchen and pastry chef categories with more competitions yet to come.
"Food preparation like this shows a different side of food preparation besides just [cooking in the field]," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Hamilton, captain of the Marine Corps team.
Throughout the training exercise, the ACF allowed competing service members to earn ACF certifications, a recognized achievement in the industry that makes military personnel more competitive for civilian jobs.
"Along the way, these students are learning managerial skills, meal planning, nutrition, and basically being matched up with their civilian counterparts to be able to walk out into the civilian sector and assume manager and leadership roles [there]," said Capt. Derrick Oliver, the director of the Marine Corps Food Service Team.
Sgt. Keny Lazo, captain of the student Marine Corps food service team, added that taking a culinary career path in the Marine Corps has given her useful skills.
"I never cooked before the Marine Corps, and the Marine Corps has taught me a lot," Lazo said. "I have learned leadership styles, and I have learned cooking styles as well."