By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
III Corps' Culinary Arts Team announced the names of eight new members Friday, following a grueling two-part tryout.
"I wasn't sure I would (make it)," said new team member Pfc. Jamie Nakamoto, 41st Fires Brigade. "I read a lot of cookbooks and wanted to do something different."
Following panel interviews last week, Nakamoto and 17 fellow team hopefuls were given a "mystery" basket of ingredients, from which to design innovative and delicious plates. Nakamoto's pastry basket included sweet potatoes, brown sugar, raisins, flour, eggs, butter and chocolate. Rather than a typical dessert, Nakamoto knocked out judges with red velvet waffles.
Making the team opens up new doors, professionally and creatively, said Nakamoto.
"I want to be on the team to build up my portfolio, because I'm an artist," said the Army cook. "I do woodwork and painting and crocheting and knitting, pretty much everything."
Sgt. Marc Susa, the culinary arts team's training noncommissioned officer, said Nakamoto was just one of many talented cooks trying out for the team this round, to fill the spots of several teammates who are retiring, moving or leaving the service.
"It's a bigger turnout than we've ever had," he said. "We even had someone come up from Fort Sam Houston (in San Antonio to try out)."
In addition to being the biggest group to try out in the team's three-year history, this round's soldiers were also the most skilled, said Susa. But in addition to kitchen savvy, the training NCO said personality is an important factor in the assessment process.
"We listen and try to get to know the soldiers," he said. "We want to know how passionate they are about food service and how hungry they are to be part of the team."
Although not a stereotypical military occupation specialty, food service remains integral to the fight, said Susa. "We think of ourselves as the fueling force for the Army, in the field, in garrison and overseas."
Additionally, the III Corps Culinary Arts Team travels annually to Fort Lee, Va., to compete in the Defense Department-wide Military Culinary Arts Competition. The Fort Hood team placed third overall last year. Team members also have been known to be plucked for high-profile assignments, including those at the Pentagon (in fact, the team's Sgt. Rose Picard will soon be heading there to cook for the military's top officials).
"We started this team in 2009 under (then-III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Rick) Lynch," said III Corps food service technical trainer Bryan Day. "We put it together in hopes of compiling a team to send to Fort Lee, and this team has exceeded our expectations of what we thought could be done."
But success is only achieved through long hours, practice and hard work, said Day.
"This isn't a cakewalk. Prestige has a price."
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.