Reporter's Notebook: Bagram ‘Iron Chef’ teams serve up friendly rivalry
May 30, 2008
Mideast edition, Friday, May 30, 2008
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — A friendly rivalry spilled over into the kitchen Wednesday when two six-chef teams representing brigades from the 101st Airborne Division squared off in a version of "Iron Chef."
The team from Task Force Lifeliner eventually emerged the winner, according to a three-judge panel. The team, representing the 101st Sustainment Brigade, saw itself as the underdog because its competition — cooks from the 101st Aviation Brigade — works every day in a dining facility.
Each team had three hours to prepare meals for 40 people, using whatever was available at the aviation brigade’s dining facility. Team Destiny went with an appetizer of vegetable chutney over slices of grilled steak, a main course featuring bell peppers stuffed with rice, grilled turkey, asparagus, and a French pastry covering half a peach and surrounded by chocolate mousse and ice cream.
Team Lifeliner countered with an appetizer course of rolled beef atop bread. The main course consisted of turkey breast stuffed with chutney, a stuffed bell pepper filled with vegetables, and crab and rice pilaf, and dessert was a citrus tart surrounded by strawberry mousse.
Though his team didn’t win, Sgt. William Smetak wasn’t complaining. Too much.
"This is a great experience," he said. "We should do it more often."
Smetak left the trash-talking to his superiors. Col. Jeffrey Kelley, who commands the sustainment brigade, tried to influence the judges while tasting the courses served up by the aviation unit.
"Hey, I need a chain saw to cut this," he joked.
Not to be outdone, Col. Jim Richardson — the aviation brigade commander — made faces while trying the food from the sustainment troops. He even tried bribery by telling Air Force Brig. Gen. Mike Holmes he wouldn’t have to stand in line anymore when visiting the unit’s dining facility if he voted for the aviation unit.
Dozens of servicemembers stopped by to watch the competition during the day. The teams generally split up at the beginning to focus on individual tasks before coming together to finish each dish.
When it was all decided, the judges liked the way Team Destiny presented its food.
But they gave the nod to Team Lifeliner for originality and taste.