Butter-poached lobster accompanied by leek salad with beet essence doesn’t sound much like an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat), the much-maligned military food ration. But military cooking isn’t all pre-packaged food or slop from a chow line.
That elegant lobster dish was just one recipe that a local soldier prepared last month for the 35th U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition in Fort Lee, Va. Army Reservist Spc. Erich Doud from the 396th Combat Support Hospital won an individual silver medal at the event. He also helped his team win awards in several events including a silver for field service and a silver for overall cold display
“It was a blast,” said the Medical Lake resident.
Doud, 24, has had a lifelong interest in cooking. His studies at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Las Vegas were interrupted when he was deployed to Afghanistan, but he’s hoping to attend the Army’s Advanced Culinary School. “I like to pick up recipes and see what I can do,” he said.
He found out what he could do under pressure at Fort Lee. Most teams train for months for the annual event, but Doud was a last minute addition. In fact, he received several of the recipes just hours before flying to the competition.
And this is no hour-long cooking contest. The Army Culinary Arts Competition is the largest culinary competition in the United States. The contest, sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation, showcases the talents of military chefs from around the world and includes chefs from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. From Feb. 27 through March 12 contestants competed in several events.
Doud won a team silver medal in the student skills event, a relay-type race for junior chefs and apprentices involving classic vegetable cuts, basic pastry skills and meat butchery. The competitors then had to prepare and serve a four-course meal in 90 minutes.
“We were judged by renowned chefs from Europe and America,” said Doud. Neither the intensity of the competition nor the scrutiny of the judges lessened his enjoyment of the event. “It was really fun,” he said.
The Army Reserve team’s fifth-place finish out of 12 teams is remarkable because unlike the full-time military teams, the Reserve group was only able to train together four times. “There was hardly any drama,” Doud said. “Nobody blew up.” He credits that team cohesiveness for their strong finish.
Soon, Doud will be using his skills aboard the 1,000-bed medical ship, the USMS Mercy, but in the meantime he’ll be cooking up a storm at Klink’s on the Lake at Williams Lake. Doud said he enjoys his time in the kitchen. “It’s fast-paced and the day flies by. It’s close enough to being a rock star.”
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