by Staff Sgt. Terri Paden
15th Wing Public Affairs
8/21/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Being
an Air Force food service specialist offers Airmen the opportunity to
provide one of the most critical elements of mission support-sustenance.
However, for one Airman assigned to the 647th Force Support Squadron as
a food service journeyman, it also provided an opportunity to make her
dreams a reality.
Senior Airman Carmen Gonzalez said she joined the Air Force because she
wanted to be a professional chef; a goal she recently put to the test
when she took home gold and silver medals at the U.S. Army's 38th Annual
Culinary Arts competition, in Fort Lee, Va.
The annual competition serves to raise the standards of culinary
excellence and professionalism, nurture creativity, offer a place for
participants to showcase their skills and give participants a chance to
earn credits toward a certification.
"I did great, better than I expected in such a competitive environment,"
said the Puerto Rico native. "It was a lot of hard work and long hours,
but in the end, getting the competition experience was worth it,
winning was a bonus."
Gonzalez said she finally got her big break after three years, when she
was selected as the sole Airman to represent the Air Force in the local
multi service competition. After an extensive week-long try out that
pitted her against 50 other service members, she was then chosen as the
only Airman, on a joint team of 12, which would train for the
international competition in Virginia.
"We did not select Airman Gonzalez to represent the Air Force, like
everyone else, Airman Gonzalez had to compete for a spot on the team,"
said Tech. Sgt. Katrina Stone, 647th Force Support Squadron food service
supply NCO in charge. "Her attention to detail and pride in all that
she does win out all the time."
The team trained 12 hours a day, six days a week, for more than four
months to perfect basic cooking skills, and proper preparation of hot
and cold foods to meet stringent competition standards.
Gonzalez said training for the competition was different than the year
she spent studying culinary arts, because the military training involved
stricter standards and more discipline. She said she also struggled
with learning how to prepare cold food products to use for presentation.
The training paid off. Gonzalez said she made her winning dish of
stuffed chicken with goat cheese and spinach, fluted mushrooms, turned
potatoes with balsamic vinegar onions nine times before preparing it for
the competition and earning a gold medal in the hot food category. She
was also awarded a silver medal for the cold food category and third
place for the team category.
As Gonzalez looks to the future, she said she will continue to work on
her craft in preparation for the U.S. Army's 39th Annual Culinary Arts
competition next year. She's also been invited to participate in the
2014 World Culinary Cup.
Stone said Gonzalez embodies "excellence in all she does" both in and out the kitchen, even when she's not competing.
"We are extremely proud of Airman Gonzalez," said Stone. "I wish I can
take the credit for her being outstanding, in truth ... Airman Gonzalez
prides herself in doing the best job she can. No matter how small, big,
simple or difficult the task, she always put her best foot forward."