AFMAO claims Dover AFB "Iron Chef" victory against FSS

  • Published
  • By Roland Balik
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The tension of two competing teams was almost as thick as the aroma of food cooking in the Patterson Dining Facility kitchen here - so thick you could have cut it with a knife during the Dover Iron Chef competition July 24, 2014.

Based loosely on the popular television show "Iron Chef America," two teams of four individuals put their culinary skills to the test in a challenge match. The teams were competing for the right to claim culinary bragging rights on Dover AFB.

"Normally, the Dover Iron Chef competition in the past was between an individual challenging another," said Tech. Sgt. April Hall, 436th Force Support Squadron Dover Iron Chef competition organizer. "This is the first team challenge held in years."

If one team had home turf or kitchen advantage over the other, the 436th FSS team represented by Staff Sgt. Brian Sosa, Airman 1st Class Esther Jeremiah, Darius Long and Airman David Regalado-Hernandez had the key ingredients to a winning recipe as they were cooking in their own kitchen.

They were competing against an all-depolyed team from the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations led by Maj. Andrea Pitruzzella, 914th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, New York,  Staff Sgt. Andre Hunter, 375th Force Support Squadron, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, Staff Sgt. Earl Simmons, 315th Force Support Squadron, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, and Senior Airman Jaqe Wesley 512th Memorial Affairs Squadron, Dover AFB.

"Our team was given a tour of the kitchen area on Monday prior to the competition," said Pitruzzella. "It allowed us to get familiar with the cooking area and equipment."

Both teams waited patiently in the dining area of the dining facility for the arrival of the unknown ingredients they had to work with and the final competition instructions.

"All ingredients must be used but at least one of them had to be used in their appetizer, entrée and dessert dishes," said Hall. "Teams were allowed to bring in their own spices and utensils if they desired to."

At the start of the competition, both teams were presented a colander containing identical ingredients and amounts for them to create an appetizer, entrée and dessert in the allotted time of two and a half hours.

"We provided them with 15-pounds of chicken breasts, three parsnips, a purple onion, a rutabaga and a quart of heavy cream," said Hall. "They had 15 minutes to look over the items and request any additional items available in the PDF storage room and refrigerators."

After the ingredients were revealed, both teams whipped out their smartphones, searched for recipes and got to work creating their dishes.

Judges for the competition were Lt. Col. David Kretz, AFMAO deputy commander; Jeffery Moore, 436th FSS bowling center manager; and Sheila Harris, US Foods military account manager.

Each team earned points from the judges for appeal, compatibility, color, creativity, originality and garnishing in the presentation/appearance category and additional points for taste, palatability, effort, degree of difficulty, aroma and texture in the flavor category.

"The dish that surprised me the most was the parsnip cupcake," said Moore. "If someone would have told me it was a parsnip cupcake, I wouldn't have known it."

After sampling each team's culinary craftwork, the judges reviewed each dish and tallied up the points to choose a winner.

"All of the dishes were very good," said Kretz prior to announcing the winner. "A job well done by both teams and I would have been happy spending my own money at consuming both meals in their entirety if I were at a restaurant."

In the end, the judges crowned Team AFMAO as "Dover Iron Chef of the Quarter" with their winning menu of a sweet chicken spring roll appetizer, lettuce wedge and chicken breast entrée and parsnip cupcake with cinnamon and nutmeg frosting for dessert.

"Although I love to cook, I am not typically a baker, so it was an additional stretch of my skill set to be on the parsnip cupcake team," said Pitruzzella. "I am very proud of the hard work and talent that I saw from both teams, and especially proud to bring home the Iron Chef of the Quarter win for AFMAO."