Jason Gray begin their menu with a seafood
soup and end with a rich chocolate soufflé.
AND THE CONTENDERS ARE . . .
The first-ever Freedom Chef Challenge took
place at the 2008 ACF Western Regional
Conference in Salt Lake City. It drew wide
media attention, and debuted with much
acclaim. The champions, from the Army,
were Master Sgt. David Turcotte, CEC, AAC,
and Sgt. 1st Class Rene Marquis, CEC, CCE,
PCEC, CCA, AAC. Marquis returned this
year to defend the Army’s title paired with
Sgt. Matthew Flemister, CEC. From the start,
you could see the determination in their
eyes. There was no question that they were
here to not only win but to keep the Army
team on top of the military’s culinary world.
Equally determined to dethrone the Army,
from the Coast Guard, were Senior Chief
Justin Reed, CEC, and Petty Officer
Edward Fuchs, CC, fresh off the Guardians
impressive third-place finish in the Installation
of the Year competition at the 35th U.S. Army
Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee, Va., in
March. With fire in their eyes and fortitude in
their hearts, they set their sights on sinking
the Army’s hopes at a repeat victory.
To the left of the Army, cooking their hearts
out, were Culinary Specialist 1st Class Paul
Maloney, CEC, and 2009 Armed Forces
Chef of the Year Culinary Specialist 1st
Class Michael Edwards, CEC, PCEC, from
the Navy, who were also convinced that
this year would be their year to be named
Freedom Chef Challenge champions. And
they cooked like it—clean as a whistle and
no wasted movements.
To the left of the Navy, flying high,
were Master Sgt. Jason Gray, CEC, and
Senior Master Sgt. Mark Veomett, CEC,
AAC, of the Air Force. With focus and
determination, they set out to rain on the
Army’s hopes of a repeat performance.
Next to the Air Force, with picture-perfect
posture, uniforms crisp, eyes sharp and
equally as focused was the Marine Corps,
represented by Staff Sgt. Scott R. Zabel,
CC, and Staff Sgt. Charles Thomas Hughes,
CC. As they created their meal, they no
doubt had in mind the fact that the 2008
Armed Forces Chef of the Year was a fellow
Marine, and they knew that today they would
be Freedom Chef Challenge champions.
Each team was charged with reviewing the
basket, writing a menu and shopping in a
30-minute window. Once done, they would
have three hours to cook a minimum of
Justin Reed, right, of the Coast Guard
team, which took third place, shares a light
moment with judge Gissur Gudmundsson.
four courses, four portions of each course.
They could, however, choose to do as
many as seven courses. Every item in the
basket had to be used.
Over the next three hours, heat swirled
in the air. The frenzied maelstrom that is
the plating window, normally confined to
the end of a competition, did not exist in
this competition. Each team could plate
whenever it wanted to. All had to stop at the
appointed hour, whether done or not. This
made for an extremely intense competition,
because virtually the entire timeframe
became a plating window. Most teams did
not start to plate until the two-hour mark,
others not until the two-and-a-half-hour
mark. After that, the food came fast and
furious. Judging this event was intimidating,
if only for the volume of food that the
judges had to taste— 27 courses in all.
The Army attacked the basket in earnest,
making seven courses. Mise en place
impeccable and organization on point, they
powered through the three-hour window,
churning out dish after dish, everything
from a rabbit terrine with fingerling
potatoes, cherry chutney and mushroom
mélange to cold avocado soup and