Military culinarians showcase talents at annual JCTE

| March 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

Sgt. Darmel Carrasquillo a culinary arts specialist for Team Hawaii, works meticulously using a knife and cutting board preparing mangos during the 43rd annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise. The 43rd JCTE started March 10 at Fort Lee MacLaughlin Fitness Center and continues until March 15. The exercise, administered by the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, is the largest American Culinary Federation-sanctioned competition in North America. The exercise showcased the talent of more than 200 military chefs from all military services around the globe to include four international teams. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Spc. Trenton Fouche) (Released)

Spc. Brittney Hidalgo
214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT LEE, Virginia — The 43rd annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) commenced March 10 at MacLaughlin Fitness Center on post, here, and culminated with an awards ceremony at the Lee Playhouse, March 16.

The JCTE, administered by the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, is the largest American Culinary Federation (ACF)-sanctioned competition in North America, showcasing the talent of military chefs from around the globe in all branches of the U.S. armed forces. It includes four international military teams from the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Canada. Industry executive chefs rate and provide feedback to all service members competing on meals made during the exercise.

The mission of this exercise is to improve readiness of the armed forces. Competing military members are able to hone their skills as culinary arts specialists and improve the quality of food services to their unit, enabling them to better perform their duties at home and in a deployment environment.

Sgt. First Class Jose Alves from the Joint Hawaii Culinary Team preps his Chef of the Year dish at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence this week from the 43rd Annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise, hosted by the Advanced Food Service Training Division – Fort Lee, Joint Culinary Center of Excellence.

The exercise simultaneously provides an opportunity to train and to showcase service members’ culinary skills outside of day-to-day dining facility menu options.

“A lot of people have a perception that armed services only make mass meals, make rations and serve (Meals Ready to Eat),” said Army Staff Sgt. Tyler Heyenga, Team Alaska manager leading Army and Air Force members from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Fort Wainwright. “A lot of people don’t see the other side of what we do as culinary artists. They don’t see that we are able to make elegant food.”

JCTE encourages knowledge sharing between the Army installations, other military services and the international armed forces in attendance. The sharing of techniques and information allows for a variety of meal options and styles to be utilized.

“You just have to sit around and listen and watch them, and you’ll see like, ‘Hey, I might want to think about adding a little bit of this or a little bit of that,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Sean J. Rice, U.S. Army Quartermaster School, U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command. “Even the nutritionist learns in this competition because everyone is held to an industry standard.”

Participating service members are not competing against each other, but against the culinary industry standards. Awards are given based upon those who meet or exceed those standards.

“To these young men and women, the opportunity to be here is one thing, but the opportunity to medal means a great deal to them,” said Rice. “They know they can build on those skills and get better as they go forward.”

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