Gladiators of the Culinary Arena; putting their skills to the test

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Article by: Capt Seymour, Strat J4 Food Svcs 3-3 & MWO Joly, 5 CMBG, HQ & Sigs Sqn

Cooks in the CAF demonstrate dedication, professionalism, culinary skills and experience that meet and surpass those of our civilian chef counterparts. CAF cooks work on ships at sea, submarines, aboard CAF aircraft, in garrisons and bases, and on deployed operations. CAF cooks are always learning and enhancing their operational capabilities. As such, they are encouraged, at all ranks, to participate in domestic, and international competitions when the opportunities arise.

Culinary competitions replicate, as closely as possible, real industry challenges. These opportunities allow the CAF to reinvest in the training, development, morale and welfare of the Cook occupation by participating in international training and competitive exercises that pertain strongly to the core values of the CAF, its operations, and force generation capabilities.

This year’s 44th Annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise/ Competition in Fort Lee Virginia, USA, was both exciting and challenging for the 2019 CAF Culinary Team. The US Army Culinary Arts Competition is the largest recognized military culinary competition in North America, ongoing since 1973. It is sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation (ACF), showcasing the talents of military chefs from around the globe in all branches of the Armed Forces.

For the 2019 competition season, the effective dates for training were from 03-10 March 2019 at the Canadian Force Logistics Training Centre (CFLTC) Cooks school in Borden. No, it is not a typo or error; our team had only 7 days in which to hone the culinary skills essential to compete on this international stage against teams/ allied forces that compete together year round. From there, the team traveled to Fort Lee, Virginia USA, from 10-15 Mar 19 to compete in the 44th Annual JTCE Mystery Box competition against the US militaries finest and our allies.

How do our CAF Cooks qualify?

The CAF Culinary team competition starts at the local level with the environments looking at the skills and competencies of the cooks working at their respective kitchens, galleys, ships, submarines and aircraft. The nominee’s files from each environment are reviewed and a primary candidate is selected earning the right to contend for the International opportunity during the year. The 3 successful team members train together collectively in Borden under realistic competition scenarios for the first 3 days under the guidance/mentorship and scrutiny of the team trainers (previous competition winners)/the team manager and CFLTC Staff. On the evening of the 3rd day, 2 members are selected to compete as a team in Fort Lee, as per the competition rules. The 3rd member of the team works behind the scenes to assist. The two members continue training under realistic competition scenarios until they depart for Fort Lee. 

Competition Guidelines

To ensure each environment is well represented, the EC CWO/CPO1 are advised that nominated competitors meet specific criterion:

  1. demonstrate advanced culinary skills and competencies
  2. adhere to and follow the established competition championship guidelines
  3. work collaboratively in a team setting
  4. have a valid Force evaluation
  5. are in good standing, with no administrative or punitive charges pending
  6. meet U of S retention standards; and 
  7. are professional and able to represent the CAF, their environment and the occupation on the international stage

Arrival in Fort Lee was intoxicating, a mixture of excitement and apprehension. The timings for the competition were tight and stringent: Prepare, cook and serve 10 portions of each course menu (4 portions for the judges, 1 for display and critique, and 5 for plated service) within 40 minutes allowing approximately 10 minutes per course.

The selected team of Cpl Miguel Alarcon and LS Maxime Hélie competed in the International Mystery Box competition on the 14th Mar 19. The Black box consisted of: whole Rabbit, Pork shoulder, fresh whole Rainbow Trout, raw Oysters, Bacon, Black Berries, Maroons, Rhubarb, Burdock root, Molasses, Black Rice, Japanese Pear and assorted fresh herbs.

With these ingredients, the CAF Culinary team created a succulent & tempting menu, which you can view in the image gallery below.

Image gallery

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