Freeman Dining Facility hosts Top Chef competition

By Staff Sgt. Rob Strain
15th Sus. Bde. Public Affairs

FORT HOOD, Texas — “One minute left,” the timekeeper stated.

With the time wearing down, the three competitors raced to finish on time, each of them placing finishing touches on their dessert creations as the audience and judges watched anxiously.

As time expired, each of the competing chefs stood proudly by their creations, waiting for the judges to have their say.

While this may sound like a popular cooking show, it isn’t.

This was the scene Sept. 12 at Fort Hood’s Freeman Café Dining Facility, where the 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) hosted the last day of a three-day competition to determine who was the facility’s Top Chef.

Each day of the competition was a different challenge, and each chef was only given 90 minutes to accomplish each challenge. The first day, Sept. 10, each chef had to cook an entire meal, consisting of a meat, vegetable and starch, in one pan. The second day was a mystery basket: each chef was given a meat, starch and vegetable, and they had to make something from it. The third and final day was a dessert competition.

“It’s like the Super Bowl of cooking,” said Sgt. 1st Class Zamain Brown, a section noncommissioned officer with the dining facility. “It’s something different.”

Brown explained that the cooks don’t often get the opportunity to show off their cooking skills, since industrial cooking is often focused on volume due to time constraints.

“We do in 90 minutes, what most restaurants do all day, and we do it 3 times a day,” Brown said. According to Brown, the Freeman Dining Facility averages about 400 customers a day.

The competition’s overall winner was Spc. Jonathan Brownell, with the 263rd Maintenance Company, 49th Transportation Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade.

Brownell, a Clarmont, Fla., native, worked in food service for 12 years before joining the Army 6 years ago, and although he hasn’t had any formal cooking schooling, he has worked at a number of restaurants and even a hotel.

He explained that preparing food is all about taste and presentation.

“If it looks good, it tastes good,” he said.

He went on to explain that the best tasting food in the world isn’t any good if it doesn’t look good on the plate.

But for Brownell, it isn’t all about the winning the competition, he’s in it for the opportunity to be more creative and to have fun.

“It’s awesome,” Brownell said. “I’d do this every month if they’d let me.”

When it came down to it at the end of the competition, they were all winners, said Brownell.

“No matter what, we’re in the top three at the Freeman Dining Facility,” he said as the judges were making their decisions.

After the judges made their final decisions, and the points were tallied, Brownell came out on top.

Second place was awarded to Spc. Joseph Van Avery, with Company B, 57th Signal Battalion, and third place went to Spc. Dymetrl Poole, also with the 263rd Maintenance Company.

Each of the Soldiers was given a set of cookbooks and will be recognized during the brigade’s monthly Wagonmaster Shout Out on Sept. 24.

Brown said they hope to continue the competition at least once a month and eventually open it up to the other dining facilities on Fort Hood.

 

Spc Jonathan Brownwell
Spc. Jonathan Brownell, with the 263rd Maintenance Company, 49th Transportation Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), prepares his dessert entry into the Freeman Dining Facility's Top Chef Competition Sept. 12. Brownell, who worked in food service for 12 years before joining the Army six years ago, was the competition's overall winner. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Rob Strain, 15th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)

Spc Dymetrl Poole
Spc. Dymetrl Poole, with the 263rd Maintenance Company, 49th Transportation Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), puts the finishing touches on his dessert entry into the Freeman Dining Facility's Top Chef Competition Sept. 12. Poole's entry was awarded the best Dessert by the judges, but he came in third overall in the competition. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Rob Strain, 15th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)