Posted by: arbeam | May 14, 2013

Naval Hospital Bremerton Culinary Specialists showcase skills during Armed Forces Day Culinary Arts Competition

2013 NHBFrom chili to chicken to cake, Naval Hospital Bremerton culinary specialists competed in the annual Armed Forces Day Military Culinary Arts Competition on May 11 in front of an appreciative and enthusiastic crowd.

According to official host of the competition, Chief Warrant Officer E. van Hofwegen, Naval Base Kitsap Food Service officer, the event showcases the ability of the Navy’s culinary specialists, some of the unsung heroes of the service.

“We have the best chefs in the Armed Forces here today to show their culinary skill in this competition. They come from our Navy units afloat and ashore and are truly amazing with the level of talent they have. We are very proud and thank them for their service to our great nation,” van Hofwegen said.

There were eight commands from the greater Puget Sound area that sent their culinary specialists to the event. The competition had the teams showcasing their epicurean skills in eight different categories, such as decorated cakes, ice sculptures and garnish displays, hors d’oeuvres and appetizers, chicken wings, chili cook-off and an Iron-Chef competition, where a secret ingredient had to be added during the cook-off. Awards were given for 1st, 2nd and 3rd in each category. Judges graded on a one to ten scale.

“What started out 40 years ago as a simple chili cookout get together with a few commands has branched out to the great event that it is today,” said Cris Larson, Armed Forces Day Parade coordinator and unofficial ambassador of the Culinary Arts Competition.

NHB claimed several ‘bragging rights’ for their efforts. The entire team placed 2nd in the Garnishing category, along with the 2nd place finish in the chili cook-off category.

“I like creating something from nothing and seeing someone enjoying it and saying ‘this is amazing.’ It’s really such a nice feeling, as it is to have our team and all the rest working together to make this a great event,” exclaimed Bohn, a Vancouver, Wash. Native, recognized with the 2nd place award for her chili that featured ground turkey, bacon and roast, amongst other ingredients. “It’s delicious, and others kept saying the same thing all morning.”

Along with Bohn, NHB was represented by Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Portis, Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Michael Hooper, Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Brittney Crane and Culinary Specialist Seaman Apprentice Jacob Myers. Portis and Hooper were featured in the Iron Chef competition. The chili cook-off also had efforts from Portis and Crane. The chicken-wing cook-off had dishes made by Portis and Myers. Myers also baked a entry in the pie-judging competition, The hors d’oeuvres category was handled by Crane, and the entire team taking part in arranging the garnish category effort.

Despite their initial first time jitters, Portis and Hooper handled their skill in the Iron Chef competition with more than just a pinch of this and a dash of that. “It was surprising but we were surviving. It was a crazy back there in the kitchen to start out. But once we got going, our dishes really came together,” he said.

The Iron Chef competition was the highlight of the event for the culinary specialists and featured the two-member teams pitted not only against their other, but also the clock. Each dish was presented and then judged on general appearance; presentation and creativity; display of skill; most originality; and taste and texture.

Three minutes before the start of the allotted 60-minute time, the teams were given the ‘secret ingredient’ to add, which in this case was ginger root, tofu and peanut butter. They then had to add those components in the making four meals for the panel of judges – Honorable Mayor Patty Lent of Bremerton, Capt. Maureen Pennington, Naval Hospital Bremerton Executive Officer, Naval Base Kitsap Command Master Chief Shaun Piersel, and chef Steve Lammer of Olympic College.

Portis and Hooper prepared a pork loin with potatoes for the judges and although they didn’t place in the final three, they received thumbs up for their effort. “After 13 years stationed in Italy, I knew that potatoes are best served light rather than heavy which is what we did here. The ginger root was difficult because it’s if not diced fine, it can be overpowering. We used the peanut butter as a binding agent,” shared Hooper.

“Their dish was wonderful,” said Mayor Lent.

“It really turned out well,” added Lammer.

The event is held in conjunction with the annual Bremerton Armed Forces Day celebration which culminates with this year’s 65th Annual Armed Forces Day Parade, billed as the largest west of the Mississippi. The Culinary Arts Competition has been moved to the Saturday before the annual parade to allow those interested in both events to attend each.

“They do make the difference in morale for all our units in the Navy, and this competition just gets better every single year,” said Capt. Pete Dawson, NBK Commanding Officer.

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