Spc. Mark Caseres of Team Hawaii wins best Armed Forces Chef

| March 18, 2019 | 4 Comments
Spc. Mark Caseres (center) pours a pomegranate mixture into a shot glass while Pvt. Jiovani Garcia unwraps a glass during the Armed Forces Chef of the Year event March 8 at the Joint Center of Culinary Excellence, Fort Lee, Va. Armed Forces Chef of the Year is the first event for the Joint Culinary Training Exercise which officially starts March 9. Both are culinary arts specialists on Team Hawaii. The 44th annual JCTE at Fort Lee MacLaughlin Fitness Center continues until March 14. 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.

Spc. Mark Caseres (center) pours a pomegranate mixture into a shot glass while Pvt. Jiovani Garcia unwraps a glass during the Armed Forces Chef of the Year event March 8 at the Joint Center of Culinary Excellence, Fort Lee, Va. Armed Forces Chef of the Year is the first event for the Joint Culinary Training Exercise which officially starts March 9. Both are culinary arts specialists on Team Hawaii. The 44th annual JCTE at Fort Lee MacLaughlin Fitness Center continues until March 14. 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.

Sgt. Ryan Salazar and Spc. Mark Caseres (right) prepare food as part of the mobile kitchen trailer hot buffet event March 12 as part of the Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) at Fort Lee, Va. Both are culinary arts specialist with Team Hawaii. In the event, five-person teams prepare a buffet meal for 45 diners. The 44th annual JCTE officially started March 9 at MacLaughlin Fitness Center and continues until March 14. 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 three international teams.

Sgt. Ryan Salazar and Spc. Mark Caseres (right) prepare food as part of the mobile kitchen trailer hot buffet event March 12 as part of the Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) at Fort Lee, Va. Both are culinary arts specialist with Team Hawaii.

Marines cook their way to the top at JCTE

Dani Johnson
Army News Service

FORT LEE, Va. — For the first time, the Marine Corps was recognized as the Culinary Team of the Year and 293 American Culinary Federation (ACF) medals were awarded to military chefs at the 44th annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) awards ceremony Mar. 15 here.

JCTE started Mar. 8 with the Armed Forces Chef of the Year event and continued until Mar. 14 with the culmination of the International Two-Chef Culinary Challenge. The exercise, administered by the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, is the largest ACF-sanctioned competition in North America. This year’s exercise showcased the talent of 201 military chefs from all military services around the globe to include four international teams.

“Your participation in the exercise demonstrated your commitment and passion for culinary excellence,” said Brig. Gen. Douglas M. McBride Jr., Quartermaster General. “What you do plays an integral part in our military readiness across the joint force.

“Napoleon is often quoted as saying ‘the Army marches on its stomach,’ and that is 100 percent true,” said the general. “In order for our service members to be effective on the battlefield, they must have healthy and plentiful delivered on time, on target, in any operating environment.”

Marines top the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence in 2019. (Photo by U.S. Army)

Marines top the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence in 2019. (Photo by U.S. Army)

This year, more than 4,000 people were on hand to watch 22 teams with 399 cooking entries judged, competing from all five service branches and three countries.

“Must recognize the competing Soldiers and their coaches who are striving for recognition to showcase their talent and skills in an effort to become better cooks and chefs to improve the quality of the culinary food industry,” said Chef Roland Schaeffer, lead judge, ACF. “I know you are tired and you did a good job.

“I once asked General MacLaughlin what was the criteria of becoming a good general and he told me you first have to be a good Soldier,” said the chef. “That is the same advice goes for our profession, you have to become a good cook before you become a good chef.”

Thirteen teams vied for Culinary Team of the Year with Fort Drum, New York, team as the runner up to the Marine Corps; Fort Drum student team was recognized as the best team with all five members having less than two years in culinary arts; Chief Petty Officer Frida Karani, culinary specialist, U.S. Navy, was recognized as best master chef; Spc. Mark Caseres, culinary arts specialist, Team Hawaii, won best Armed Forces Chef; and Lance Cpl. Christopher Sanchez, food service specialist, Marine Corps, won best student chef.

Spc. Angela Calderon, culinary arts specialist, Team Hawaii, pipes a mixture onto thinly sliced ham as part of the student team event March 14 as part of the Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) at Fort Lee, Va. In the event, the five-person team, with less than two-years experience, prepare a three-course meal. The 44th annual JCTE officially started March 9 at MacLaughlin Fitness Center and continues until March 14. 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 three international teams.

Spc. Angela Calderon, culinary arts specialist, Team Hawaii, pipes a mixture onto thinly sliced ham as part of the student team event March 14 as part of the Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) at Fort Lee, Va.

The first year at JCTE, the pastry chef of the year had to create a plated dessert and a celebration cake. Staff Sgt. Samantha Poe, District of Washington, was recognized as the pastry chef of the year. Fort Drum student team, Karani, Poe and Sanchez are now eligible to attend the ACF National Convention & Show Aug. 4 – 8 in Orlando, Florida.

Best in Show individual, Sgt. Bruce Serafica, Fort Carson, Colorado, was recognized as one who stood out to the judges through his workmanship, attitude, passion, exemplary future leadership and epitomized culinary excellence. Four countries — United States, France, Great Britain, and Canada — participated in the international challenge with Team France coming out victorious.

Along with testing their skills in one of the many categories, 38 service members also tried for a spot on the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team. The USACAT is the military’s national culinary team and offers members the opportunity to compete in international-level while sharpening and broadening their skills. Poe, Serafica, Spc. Kaitlyn Tran, Fort Carson; Staff Sgt. Andrew Shurden, Fort Stewart, Georgia; Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Jeffrey Plotz, U.S. Coast Guard; Culinary Specialist 1st Class Jeremy Anderson, U.S. Naval War College, Rhode Island; Staff Sgt. Justin Chase, Fort Meade, Maryland; and Sgt. Nickesha Carmichael, Pfc. Jordon Broadway, and Pfc. Tylor Brooks, Fort Drum; will represent the U.S. Armed Forces in the Culinary Olympics in February at Stuttgart, Germany.

“All of these folks here will travel back to their unit, teach what they learned from each other and they raise everyone else’s game,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason M. Vanderhaden, who started his career as a culinary specialist and held a cooking demonstration during JCTE. “Everyone aspires to want to be the best at what they do, this helps to showcase that and help train people to raise their game.”

Competing chefs were judged based on ACF guidelines, they were not competing against each other but against industry standards. Those who exceeded industry standards were given medals – 42 gold medals, 112 silver medals and 139 bronze medals were presented to military chefs who met the judging criteria.

The best of those were awarded the following:

• Culinary Team of the Year:
Marine Corps
Runner up: Fort Drum

• Judges Award, Best in Show:
Serafica

Pfc. Kevin Salazar, culinary arts specialist, Team Hawaii, cuts radishes as part of the student team event March 14 as part of the Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) at Fort Lee, Va. In the event, the five-person team, with less than two-years experience, prepare a three-course meal. The 44th annual JCTE officially started March 9 at MacLaughlin Fitness Center and continues until March 14. 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 three international teams.

Pfc. Kevin Salazar, culinary arts specialist, Team Hawaii, cuts radishes as part of the student team event March 14 as part of the Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) at Fort Lee, Va.

• Armed Forces Master Chef of the Year:
Karani

• Armed Forces Chef of the Year:
Caseres

• Armed Forces Student Chef of the Year:
Sanchez

• Army Enlisted Aide of the Year:
Chase. Chase serves as the enlisted aide to Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, director of the National Security Agency, and chief of the Central Security Service.

• Student Team Competition:
Fort Drum

• International Team of the Year:
Team France

• Military Hot Food Kitchen – five-person team utilizing the Army mobile kitchen trailer, preparing a buffet meal for 50 guests:
Fort Carson

Pfc. Elizabeth Navarro, culinary arts specialist, Team Hawaii, puts crumble into a mold as part of the student team event March 14 as part of the Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) at Fort Lee, Va. In the event, the five-person team, with less than two-years experience, prepare a three-course meal. The 44th annual JCTE officially started March 9 at MacLaughlin Fitness Center and continues until March 14. 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 three international teams.

Pfc. Elizabeth Navarro, culinary arts specialist, Team Hawaii, puts crumble into a mold as part of the student team event March 14 as part of the Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) at Fort Lee, Va. I

• Nutritional Hot Food Challenge – celebrates National Nutrition Month and healthy cooking:
Sgts. Klinton Bautista and Clarence Robinson, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington

• Pastry Chef of the Year
Poe

Winners in special categories included:

• Best Exhibit in Show (Cat. D, Culinary Showpiece):
Spc. Mark Pulido, Fort Bliss, Texas

• Judges Special Award (Cold Food Table)
Team Hawaii

Competing service members are afforded the opportunity to earn ACF certifications, a recognized industry-standard credential. These credentials help the chefs provide better service to their customers in the dining facilities, as well as acceptance in the civilian sector when the service member transitions out of the military.

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Category: Army News Service, DVIDS, News, Observances

Comments (4)

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  1. david hall says:

    Great article.. I’m super proud of the effort this team brought. That’s not SPC Calderon in the picture above.

  2. Agnes C says:

    That’s my son in whom I’m so proud of🙏

    • Agnes Caseres says:

      Mark Caseres is Armed Forces Chef of the Year and that’s my beloved son🙏 Sooo proud of you anak👏👏👏

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