After admiring ice sculptures, dozens of cakes and sampling the best food from each dining facility, Fort Hood leaders and spouses selected the best of the best during Fort Hood’s annual Thanksgiving DFAC Competition Nov. 27.
“This is their Super Bowl,” Maj. Gen. Kenneth Kamper, III Corps deputy commander, said about the culinarians who showcased their skills in the annual competition. “We’re proud of all the efforts that all the teams at each dining facility put in to making this a great Thanksgiving across the Great Place.”
Winning the large DFAC category was Ironhorse DFAC, with 1st Cavalry Division themed displays, while the North Fort Hood DFAC came in a close second, with a theme echoing back to the first Thanksgiving.
The Small DFAC winner was Freeman Café, with “Lion King” themed displays, while Always Ready DFAC on West Fort Hood came in second with a Mardi Gras inspired theme.
The panel of judges voted based on five categories – food taste, theme and décor, centerpiece, handmade ice carvings and cake and/or bread displays. At the end, the points were totaled and the DFACs with the highest scores were the winners. In the event of a tie, which there was in one case, Kamper and Command Sgt. Maj. Adam Nash, Task Force Phantom command sergeant major, selected the winner.
“I am always extremely proud of our culinarians because we give them the flexibility to think outside the box during planning, preparation and execution of the meal,” Sgt. Maj. Sylvia Thomas, Fort Hood’s chief culinarian management sergeant major, said.
The Thanksgiving DFAC competition allows the culinarians to use all their creativity to impress the judges, as well as the Soldiers, families and others who came through for the Thanksgiving meal. Thomas said they begin planning their themes months in advance, but it is the final week that brings their ideas to fruition. After all the hard work, preparation and execution, she said what always shines through the sleep-deprived culinarians is “service with a smile.”
Those who displayed incredible skills were presented with a III Corps command coin, while Kamper and Nash shook their hands and spoke to them about why they serve and what inspires them to cook. Kamper then walked around the dining facilities, introducing himself to Soldiers who were enjoying a Thanksgiving meal and letting them know he appreciates their service, especially those away from their families during the holiday season.
“Thanks for making this a special day for folks who are away from their families this Thanksgiving,” Kamper told Donna Pitts, DFAC manager at North Fort Hood, who mostly serves food to National Guard and Reserve Soldiers who are conducting pre-deployment training at the installation.
Kendra Wesbrock, wife of Col. Jason Wesbrock, commander of U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood, said it was difficult to choose a winner. She was one of 10 judges evaluating the dining facilities.
“Some have better themes, some have better food, but everyone’s done amazing,” Wesbrock said. “The detail they put into everything … they do this for a living, you can tell.”
Some of the highlights of each DFAC included a ship that was completely edible at North Fort Hood DFAC; a poker table cake at Always Ready DFAC; a huge bread cornucopia at Freeman Café; a patriotic cake with red, white and blue toy Soldiers at Ironhorse DFAC; a large candy and fruit cornucopia at Patriot Inn; and a Texas-shaped cake at Theodore Roosevelt DFAC.
“I think the Thanksgiving competition on Fort Hood is fabulous because it lets the cooks showcase their talents and what they’re interested in,” Nash said about the competition.
“What they could do with the cakes, modeling chocolate and all that ... They did a phenomenal job. It lets them express themselves and I think they did great with it.”
The winning DFAC managers both expressed pride in their Soldiers for coming together, communicating and showcasing their talents. The winners received a trophy to display at their DFAC.
“We have so much to be thankful for in our country and we’re just so proud that our teams at each dining facility poured their hearts and souls into making this a special Thanksgiving,” Kamper said. “On behalf of Lt. Gen. Pat White and Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hendrex, we wish all the Soldiers and families and very happy Thanksgiving.”