Spatula-wielding GIs boost 2nd ID’s command of the culinary
CAMP STANLEY, South Korea — Food specialist Pvt. Jeremy Morton, 2nd Infantry Division, said it was the most complicated meal he’d ever had prepared — but it was good enough to win the 2nd Infantry Division Divarty cooking competition.
Morton and Sgt. Scott Wharton of 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, took top prize in the competition on Friday by preparing a gourmet meal of cheese-capped lamb chops, baked artichoke casserole, mashed potatoes with caramelized onions and iced coffee mousse.
“This is my first competition. I have never really made the complicated meals like we are doing here,” said Morton, who managed short-order restaurants in Bloomfield, Iowa, before joining the Army last year.
“I have been cooking all my life but I have only been cooking in the Army since January,” said the young food specialist, who hopes to own a restaurant one day.
“It will probably be a small, family, short-order restaurant where we serve burgers and fries — simple stuff,” he said.
The kitchen at the Camp Stanley dining facility, where the competition was held, was a hive of activity as five two-person teams prepared their entries Friday morning.
Spc. Jason Middleton and Sgt. Franklin Gray of 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery Regiment, were preparing beef fillet and onion with Worcestershire sauce gravy and wild rice amandine. The dish won the runner-up prize.
Sgt. Anthony Brooks and Spc. Brian Boyer of 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, were cooking turkey timbales, rice pilaf, vegetable soup and strawberry cheesecake.
“You have to keep your eye on it and make sure the sauce is just right. You have to take it off at the right time or it gets too thick,” Brooks said after removing a pair of fat turkeys from the oven.
A timbale is a mixture of meat and vegetables in a cream sauce, baked in a small, drum-shaped mold or pastry casing. The sergeant last tasted turkey timbales several years ago, he said, but he still relishes the meal’s consistency and “the way the turkey and sauce come together.”
Brooks, who cooked in an Italian restaurant in New Orleans before joining the Army, is studying for a degree in electrical engineering but said one of his goals is to continue working around food.
Food services adviser Chief Warrant Officer Stephanie Adams, Divarty Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, said the competition is the first of a series of initiatives designed to boost the skills of Divarty food specialists.
The event drew soldiers selected from among 75 Divarty cooks from camps Casey, Hovey and Stanley.
Adams said the three-course meals, soups, and desserts were judged on taste, presentation and degree of difficulty.
The winners received a set of professional chef’s knives and additional training, including a day with a Seoul chef and time with 2nd ID Commander Maj. Gen. John R. Wood’s enlisted assistant, who is responsible for preparing meals for the Commander’s official functions.
“I have watched these guys get more excited as we prepared for this. It is spreading to the other soldiers who want to compete next time around,” Adams said.
“It is my hope that this will lead to a fully-fledged culinary program with workshops, training, and shows,” she said.
Food services are an important part of Divarty, Adams added.
“I think we may be the most important part of any day. No matter how bad the rest of the day is, getting a hot meal can make it all better.”
The most popular meal among Divarty soldiers is Southern soul food including barbecued ribs, chicken, and macaroni and cheese, she said.
“It just gives the feeling of being home, relaxing with your family and barbecuing. It is comfort food.”