Iron Chef competition launches Yama Sakura exercise in Japan

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 8, 2015

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — American servicemembers’ cuisine reigns supreme this year in the land of the rising sun.

The United States and Japan kicked off Yama Sakura 69 — an annual exercise that uses computer simulations to prepare U.S. and Japanese servicemembers for an armed attack on Japan — with a cooking competition inspired by the classic Japanese TV series “Iron Chef” on Saturday at Camp Itami in Hyogo Prefecture.

Five Army chefs went up against their counterparts from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. Each team was tasked with preparing a full-course meal — from scratch to final presentation — in two hours using a “mystery basket” of ingredients, an Army statement said.

“The whole team did a great job preparing all courses of the meal,” Staff Sgt. Brian Byrd, I Corps’ team lead chef, said in the statement. “The biggest obstacle we all faced was time. Time was constantly working against us.”

A panel of judges, which included Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, I Corps commanding general, and Lt. Gen. Junji Suzuki, JGSDF Middle Army commanding general, decided narrowly in favor of the Americans’ dishes.

Sgt. Victor Fincher, a food specialist with the 25th Brigade Support Battalion who worked on desserts, worried that his Japanese competitors had the win in the bag.

“I had the sinking feeling they won, but then again you never know what to expect in these competitions,” Fincher said in the statement. “As a competitor, you don’t want your opponent to win, but I thought they did a better job [than us].”

Yama Sakura 69, which is led by the Army’s I Corps out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and features 5,000 servicemembers from the U.S. and the JGSDF Middle Army, continues through Dec. 18.


Spc. Deayerius Dukes, a food service specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps, works with Spc. Thomas Crosby, a food service specialist with the 25th Infantry Division, to prepare the appetizer during the Yama Sakura 69 Iron Chef competition, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, at Camp Itami, Japan.

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