Military teams square off in annual barbecue challenge in DC
June 25, 2016
WASHINGTON — Arrive hungry, leave stuffed and help a good cause is the game plan at the USO-hosted Military Chef Cook-Off, part of the annual Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle this weekend.
Teams from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard turned on their grills Saturday morning on Pennsylvania Ave.
“Today we are doing the José Cuervo taco,” said U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Chad Adams.
It’s a twist from last year’s fare, when Adams cooked the Bob Marley Mango Chicken Express. This year's taco has a rub with eight different seasonings, homemade black beans and pico de gallo.
“We’re here to rock it out," he said. "It's all all active-duty members over here (on the Coast Guard team). It’s a little different, no offense Master Gunnery,” Adams joked.
Marine veteran Master Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah Burns, who deployed to Vietnam in 1972, exchanged friendly banter with the Coast Guard throughout the early afternoon. At one point, a member of the USMC team broke out into the Marine Corps Hymn, which led the Coast Guardsmen to respond with their own song.
“I’m looking to take home a first place trophy,” Burns said.
Burns pointed out their sample of five sauces — something the other services didn’t have.
The USMC team was second-to-last in the row of service branches' tents. Their neighbor, the Coast Guard, was the final stop for the line of festival-goers.
“By the time they get through the gantlet of all that Bubba BBQ, their palate’s going to be blown up," Adams said. "That’s why we gotta soften it up with a taco.”
The winner from last year, retired U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Sondheimer, said keeping it simple is best.
The U.S. Army team was ready to take on the competition. Situated first in the row, they didn’t lack confidence.
“First just means the place you’re going to finish in,” Spc. Jamal Winefield said. “They try us first, they try everybody last. They’re like, ‘Oh, I like that one the best,’ because we’re going to be on their palate first. Everyone else is just a palate cleanser along the way.”
Winefield, a veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2012, was working alongside military spouse Donella Pearson. Together they came up with their recipe, which included BBQ chicken with mild and spicy sauce, and grilled apples with whiskey and brown sugar.
“We tried to figure out what local fruits and vegetables were being grown right now,” Pearson said. “Whiskey goes really well with fruit, especially when you cook it off. So with the brown sugar and the whiskey, it creates almost a caramel.”
“It’s a match made in heaven,” Winefield added.
Giant Foods will be donating a portion of the weekend's proceeds to the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore. According to a PR representative, Giant was hoping to raise more than $100,000 for the military charity.
The military competition is a two-day event, with results to be tallied Sunday night.