Support our mission
 
Vilseck's Elias Vance tosses the shrimp for his team's shrimp and guacamole entree at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
Vilseck's Elias Vance tosses the shrimp for his team's shrimp and guacamole entree at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Vilseck's Elias Vance tosses the shrimp for his team's shrimp and guacamole entree at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
Vilseck's Elias Vance tosses the shrimp for his team's shrimp and guacamole entree at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Judge Daniel McGowan, right, asks Vilseck's Zaria Binning a question as she prepares a dish at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.  At left is Alicia Cisneros.
Judge Daniel McGowan, right, asks Vilseck's Zaria Binning a question as she prepares a dish at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. At left is Alicia Cisneros. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Vilseck's Taylor Capps has teammate Sierra Delrosa taste the blueberry gastrique she was making as part of the team's entree at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The Vilseck team won the competition.
Vilseck's Taylor Capps has teammate Sierra Delrosa taste the blueberry gastrique she was making as part of the team's entree at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The Vilseck team won the competition. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Wiesbaden's Aaron Brown mixes ingredients for cinnamon mascarpone cream, part of her team's desert at the culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
Wiesbaden's Aaron Brown mixes ingredients for cinnamon mascarpone cream, part of her team's desert at the culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Vilseck's winning team of Alicia Cisneros, Taylor Capps and Zaria Binning prepare their plates at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
Vilseck's winning team of Alicia Cisneros, Taylor Capps and Zaria Binning prepare their plates at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Vilseck's prepared this appetizer, shrimp and guacamole with pomegranate salsa, at the culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
Vilseck's prepared this appetizer, shrimp and guacamole with pomegranate salsa, at the culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
This marshmallow cheesecake stack was Vilseck's dessert at the culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The Vilseck team took home the top prize in the competition.
This marshmallow cheesecake stack was Vilseck's dessert at the culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The Vilseck team took home the top prize in the competition. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Vilseck's entree at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition was grilled chipotle chicken breast served on blueberry gastrique with sweet potato risotto, sauteed asparagus and zucchini carpaccio.
Vilseck's entree at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition was grilled chipotle chicken breast served on blueberry gastrique with sweet potato risotto, sauteed asparagus and zucchini carpaccio. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Wiesbaden's Jordan Reed tastes the glazed sweet potatoes that her team made at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
Wiesbaden's Jordan Reed tastes the glazed sweet potatoes that her team made at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Wiesbaden's Adejia Gray, right, cooks saut?ed Brussels sprouts with bacon as Aaron Brown keeps her eyes on the rib-eye steaks she is preparing at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. Watching the action is judge Jan Parker and teammate Joanna Snyder. Wiesbaden finished second in the competition.
Wiesbaden's Adejia Gray, right, cooks saut?ed Brussels sprouts with bacon as Aaron Brown keeps her eyes on the rib-eye steaks she is preparing at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. Watching the action is judge Jan Parker and teammate Joanna Snyder. Wiesbaden finished second in the competition. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Wiesbaden's DeYasmine Pierre plates her team's appetizer of seared scallops with peach mango sauce at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
Wiesbaden's DeYasmine Pierre plates her team's appetizer of seared scallops with peach mango sauce at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
For desert the Wiesbaden culinary arts team prepared roasted pear with cinnamon mascarpone cream at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016..
For desert the Wiesbaden culinary arts team prepared roasted pear with cinnamon mascarpone cream at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Wiebaden's appetizer at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition was seared scallops with peach mango sauce at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
Wiebaden's appetizer at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition was seared scallops with peach mango sauce at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Wiesbaden High School's entree at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition: Steak au Poivre with glazed sweet potatoes and saut?ed Brussel sprouts with bacon.
Wiesbaden High School's entree at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition: Steak au Poivre with glazed sweet potatoes and saut?ed Brussel sprouts with bacon. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The judges at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition taste and discuss the dishes the students cooked Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. Clockwise from left are D.L. west, Joseph Wisniewski, Ken Turman II, Jan Parker, Andrew Dager and Daniel McGowan. The competition took place at Kaiserslautern High School.
The judges at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition taste and discuss the dishes the students cooked Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. Clockwise from left are D.L. west, Joseph Wisniewski, Ken Turman II, Jan Parker, Andrew Dager and Daniel McGowan. The competition took place at Kaiserslautern High School. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Chef D.L. West, center, critiques the Wiesbaden High School culinary arts team after they cooked their menu at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
Chef D.L. West, center, critiques the Wiesbaden High School culinary arts team after they cooked their menu at the DODDS-Europe culinary competition at Kaiserslautern High School, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Dicing a raw sweet potato while under a time crunch requires a sharp knife, steady hands and steely nerves — for both the student and the mentor.

“I got a little nervous when she was doing the sweet potato dice,” Vilseck culinary arts teacher Jane Varalli said of senior Zaria Binning. “I thought she was a bit slow on that. I didn’t care how she cut the potato but, you know, they’re just teenagers. But they worked great as a team.”

After finishing third last year, Vilseck won the cooking portion of this year’s Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe culinary championship, beating out Wiesbaden, the only other school to field a team. Organizers said some of the schools that typically compete were rebuilding their programs after losing their instructors to retirement or transfers.

In the culinary management contest, Alconbury sold the judges on the team’s “Gunslinger” burger, edging host Kaiserslautern by less than a half-point. Similar to the reality show, “Shark Tank,” teams came up with a concept for a new restaurant, designing everything from a business plan to new logos and a menu.

Members of all the participating teams earned scholarship money to the Culinary Institute of America, organizers said.

Culinary arts is a two-year DODDS elective that falls under career technical studies. It’s not currently offered at all schools, but the program is growing: Stuttgart began offering the course with the opening of its new school last fall, and Ankara brought back its program this year, said Mary Leonhart, an DODDS-Europe instructional systems specialist who helped organize the competition.

Culinary instructors say the program teaches everything from math skills to teamwork.

“You see a lot of confidence in these kids,” said Julian Gudger, culinary arts teacher at Ankara Elementary/High School in Turkey. “’Now I can make a soufflé.’ ‘I may never be a pastry chef,’ but there’s a certain confidence that comes with ‘I can do something that most people are scared of.’”

At the competition, the student chefs had 60 minutes to prepare, cook and plate a three-course meal.

Both teams attempted ambitious menus.

Wiesbaden’s Jordan Reed, Joanna Snyder, Aaron Brown, Adejia Gray and DeYasmine Pierre made seared scallops in a peach mango sauce for starters, followed by pan-fried rib-eye with glazed sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with bacon. A poached pear in a sauce of grape juice and cinnamon with mascarpone cream sprinkled with pistachios finished off the entry.

Reed said they practiced cooking the full menu at least seven times in the months leading up to the competition.

Vilseck returned three of its five members from last year’s team. Its menu began taking shape last summer, gleaned from online recipes, cookbooks and advice from professional chefs and others, said senior Elias Vance.

They decided on a spicy shrimp appetizer with guacamole and pomegranate salsa; a main course of chipotle chicken breast with sweet potato risotto, asparagus and zucchini carpaccio; and marshmallow cheesecake for dessert.

“We’ve done a lot of tweaking,” Varalli said. “They prepare and then they snarf the food down.”

Despite the laborious sweet-potato chopping, Binning was able to finish the risotto in time. Binning, Vance, Taylor Capps, and Alicia Cisneros, with time-keeping support from alternate Sierra Delrosa, set their finished plates down just as time expired.

As the judges disappeared into a back room to taste and critique the food, the Vilseck cooks exhaled sighs of relief as they rolled up their sleeves to wash dishes.

Capps said making the tortillas for the appetizer was nerve-wracking. “If they’re too thick, they don’t cook right,” she said.

Vance prepared part of the shrimp appetizer, which included the pomegranate salsa. The judges, professional and military chefs from across Europe, gave it mixed reviews.

“When you say it’s spicy shrimp, I’m telling you, you hit it on the head,” said judge Daniel McGowan.

But the pomegranate seeds, in a lime juice with onion and green bell pepper, needed something more in the sauce to hold the ingredients together, the judges agreed.

The pans could have been hotter for both the shrimp and chicken breast, said Amy Staff Sgt. Ken Turman II, a personal chef at NATO.

“It’s about building flavors and one of the best ways to build flavors is to get that kind of char, that sear … on there,” he said. But he added flavor is subjective and told the kids not to take their criticisms too hard.

“Just add it to your tool box and keep on trucking.”

svan.jennifer@stripes.com

Migrated
author headshot
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
twitter Email

stars and stripes videos


around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up