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Hood culinary arts team preps for Vegas

Email   Print   Share By Erin Rogers, Sentinel Leisure Editor
July 18, 2013 | Leisure
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Spc. Alejandra Garcia and Spc. Taylor Strack experiment with what shape works best for the potato croquette, a dish that will compliment the third course of the competition, seared Kobe beef and sauteed mushroom medley. Garcia and Strack along with their other three team members, will prepare and present each of the four courses for 24 people at the National ACF Competition in Las Vegas Sunday-July 25.
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Spc. Jamie Nakamoto slices and pits cherries that will be made into a cherry sauce for the fourth course of the competition, the dessert – modern Gateau St. Honore with cherry sauce.
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Spc. Thomas Poux, III Corps and Fort Hood Culinary Arts team captain, experiments with plating ideas for the third course – seared Kobe beef with potato croquette and sauteed mushroom medley – July 10 at the Culinary Arts Center to prepare for the upcoming National ACF Competition in Las Vegas Sunday-July 25.
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Spc. Shakila Burkes prepares the ingredients that will be used in the fourth course, the dessert, a modern Gateau St. Honore with cherry sauce. The Fort Hood Culinary Arts Team practiced making each of the four courses July 10 at the Culinary Arts Center to prepare for the National American Culinary Federation Competition in Las Vegas Sunday-July 25. (Photos by Erin Rogers, Sentinel Leisure Editor)
Fort Hood’s culinary arts team is competing in the National American Culinary Federation Competition Sunday-July 25 in Las Vegas.

The team of five has been preparing for this competition since they won the title for the best student culinary arts team at the Culinary Team of the Year Competition in March at Fort Lee, Va., at the Department of Defense level.

They will be competing against student teams from four colleges around the country, all who won in their regions.

The Fort Hood team is the first culinary arts team to ever compete in the NACF Competition for the Army, or any military branch in the history of the competition.

“This is exciting, because they are representing the entire military, not just Fort Hood,” said Spc. Thomas Poux, Fort Hood Culinary Arts Team captain. “This is the experience of a lifetime – it will never happen to these team members again, because it’s at the student level.”

The NACF Competition is the largest food competition in the United States, and Poux said he is feeling very confident about his team’s ability to “show up and bring it” in Vegas.

Each team member will have a different role at the competition, varying from being in charge of each of the four courses, to keeping their work area clean while making each course for 24 people.

The five teams competing will be judged by American Culinary Federation judges on taste, presentation, cleanliness, teamwork and time limit.

“I couldn’t pick a better group of people to work with,” said Sgt. 1st Class Zamain Brown, noncomissioned officer-in-charge of the Fort Hood Culinary Arts Team. “They are so motivated and work really hard – we’re the spearhead of this competition for the DoD.

“The hardwork and preparation they’ve gone through, their attitudes and their tough skin got them here,” Brown added. “It’s a huge accomplishment for them.”

The five team members will be competing all morning Monday, preparing their courses and being judged along with the other four teams traveling to Las Vegas.

“I’m really so nervous – we all are,” said Spc. Alejandra Garcia, team leader and main course organizer for the competition. “But the nerves are OK, because the excitement of all of this outweights the nerves.”

Garcia said she was happy with the outcome when she and her teammates did the final practice for all of the courses at the Fort Hood Culinary Arts Center July 10, and feels less nervous knowing exactly how to do everything.

Along with Garcia, the other four team members are Spc. Jamie Nakamoto, the dessert chef; Spc. Shakila Burkes, the apprentice in charge of keeping things organized during the competition; Spc. Richard Hargis, appetizer and cherry blossom chef; and Spc. Taylor Strack, first course fish chef.

The four courses the Hood team will be competing with are the first course: walnut-crusted halibut; the second course: a cherry blossom salad; the third course: seared Kobe beef with mushroom medley and potato croquette; and the fourth course: dessert, a modern Gateau St. Honore with cherry sauce.

“We came up with this menu on our own – so it’s all on us, and we’re feeling confident,” Garcia said.

“Whatever the outcome is in Vegas, these people are gaining excellent experience,” Brown added. “This is their passion – they are culinary masters.”
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