Soul food inspiration gives US military cooks the edge at Seoul culinary competition
Stars and Stripes November 16, 2023
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — A team of culinary specialists with 2nd Infantry Division placed third overall and first among their American competitors at an international military cooking competition in South Korea’s capital.
The five team members from the 581st Quartermaster Company, 2nd Sustainment Brigade competed on Nov. 7 against 11 other teams, including two more from the 2nd ID, eight from the South Korean military and one from the Singapore navy.
“With the preparation we had, we didn’t expect anything,” Sgt. Josiah Agcaoili told Stars and Stripes by phone Wednesday. “It’s a real honor and a good experience for us.”
The competition, sponsored by South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense, took place in the aT convention center in Seoul.
South Korean air force teams took first and second place in the annual event that promotes friendship and harmony between South Korean and foreign military cooks, according to a Defense Ministry press release.
Each team had to bring their creativity and skill to bear in three categories: personalized burger, mystery basket and special cuisine.
For their burger, the 581st team, led by Staff Sgt. Joshua Hoyt, whipped up a seasoned ground beef patty with spicy mayo, fried egg and Asian-inspired coleslaw.
In its mystery bag, the team found instant noodles and canned tuna with herbs and spices, similar in consistency to a crab cake. They turned their ingredients into a fried tuna cake over ramen noodles.
Finally, their special cuisine found inspiration at home and abroad: stuffed chicken breast, American chicken gravy, Southern-style sweet potatoes, fried cabbage, fried fish and sausage japchae (a South Korean dish with noodles and vegetables). A blueberry cheesecake bite stood for dessert.
Their special cuisine put the 581st over the top among the American teams.
“We kind of felt like we used a little bit of soul food, and then we twisted it with Seoul city – that was kind of our inspiration,” Hoyt said by phone Wednesday.