Kentucky cooks sizzle competition

By Stacy Floden, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Spc. Nikita Williams (left) and Soldiers with the 2112th Mess Team serve lunch to members of the 2112th during the Department of the Army's Phillip A. Connelly Culinary Competition in Burlington, Ky., March 19, 2017. The Mess Team competed against four other states in the final evaluations for the national culinary title.(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Spc. Nikita Williams (left) and Soldiers with the 2112th Mess Team serve lunch to members of the 2112th during the Department of the Army’s Phillip A. Connelly Culinary Competition in Burlington, Ky., March 19, 2017. The Mess Team competed against four other states in the final evaluations for the national culinary title.(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

BURLINGTON, Ky. — After cooking up the competition at the state and regional levels, the 2112th Transportation Company from Burlington participated in the National Culinary competition at their home armory in Burlington, Ky., March 18. The 49th Annual Department of Army Phillip A. Connelly program (PACP) includes finalists representing the “Best of the Best” in Army Garrison and field feeding excellence.

“It means everything to this section, especially since we went from such a large group of 15 down to five and we still make a large impact,” said Sgt. 1st Class Chad Applegate, culinary management NCO. “I attribute the winning to the closeness of this section. They know what to do. For a section to get rewarded the way they have and now to see the accolades through winning regionals, this is great. They get to prove and show their skills.”

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The PACP is a competition that provides recognition, promotes professionalism and excellence throughout the Army food service corps. The cooks are critiqued on their appearance as well as proper food preparation procedures. The dining facility will also be evaluated on sanitation and overall appearance.

“We cook and prepare meals on a daily basis but not at this caliber. The scrutiny during the competition is more in depth than just feeding the troops,” stated Applegate. “Your attitude and willingness to work as a group is so important. You have to work extremely close in small spaces to produce quality food.”

Evaluators from National Guard Bureau arrived in Burlington to judge the 2112th on their skills. The Soldiers were graded on numerous elements including their containerized kitchen set-up, job knowledge, cleanliness, food quality and how they worked as a team.

“Some of us have been doing this for a long time, but cooking together for the last several years has made us a good team,” said Sgt. Christopher Pope, culinary NCO. “We enjoy what we do and I think it shows. Just competing at a national level like this is an honor for us all.”

The 2112th stood up in February of last year. The unit consists of Soldiers of the 1204th Aviation Support Battalion which was inactivated in January. The cooks won the state Phillip A. Connelly award as part of the 1204th. They originally had 15 personnel, but due to the reorganization, there are only five now. Some of the original 1204th cooks have reclassified and have been serving as kitchen police and participating on the field sanitation team for the regional and national competitions. The team is allowed to continue on to the regional competition because all of the cooks competed while with the 1204th.

“It was a surprise that we were able to place first when we had only been a unit for about four months when we competed in the regionals,” said 1st Sgt. Stephen Leasgang. “We will have around 15-20 soldiers that will be directly involved in the competition, but it has taken the effort of our whole company and battalion to plan and execute.”

Kentucky is competing against National Guard units from Connecticut, Minnesota and Texas. Results are expected in April.

The Philip A. Connelly Program was established on 23 March 1968 to recognize excellence in Army Food Service. The program is named for the late Philip A. Connelly, former president the International Food Service Executives Association. (IFSEA)