The annual Commanding General’s Best Decorated Dining Facility Competition will showcase the creativity and talent of culinary specialists in each of Fort Campbell’s DFACs.
The competition will be judged Nov. 24. Each brigade DFAC will compete in the challenge. Categories include a theme selected by each DFAC, ice carving, centerpiece, cake decoration and display. DFACs also are critiqued on originality, facility cleanliness, facility decoration, difficulty and execution.
“The food advisers and food service program manager for the installation will come down and inspect,” said Sgt. 1st Class Desiree Russell Henry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team DFAC manager. “They conduct an annual inspection and they add to it by evaluating decorations, facility cleanliness, and the theme. They are very thorough and picky.”
Soldiers, veterans, Family members, friends and guests, can go to the DFACs to enjoy competition dishes Nov. 24. For non-meal cardholders the cost for the holiday meal is $9.20, or $6.85 for Soldiers with the rank of E-4 and below as well as their Family members.
COVID-19 safety precautions will be in place to protect all attendees. There are extended serving hours and additional seating will be provided outside DFACs to increase seating capacity. Regular DFAC COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, such as no self-service, following social distancing and wearing masks when not eating or drinking.
“The Carnival of Brazil”
The Rakkasan DACF’s 2020 theme is “The Carnival of Brazil” complete with bright colored masks, tropical flavors and decorations and traditional Brazilian cuisine.
“We asked our Soldiers for ideas and then the majority chose the theme,” Russell Henry said. “We’re teaching our Soldiers about pride and taking pride in their [military occupational specialty] and who they are. We are trying to build good people, not just good Soldiers and show them what they are capable of. I think it’s very important, especially in a dining facility, it gives our Soldiers the opportunity to create things they might not have had the opportunity to before, and then they can go on and teach other Soldiers or apply to future careers.”
In addition to expressing their creativity and learning new skills, Soldiers who are competing also are learning how to adapt to different challenges in their day-to-day occupations. The Rakkasans are determined to convey excellence through their theme.
“We want everything to be perfect, because the reputation of the Rakkasans is important,” said Staff Sgt. Travis Russel, 3rd BCT Dining Facility assistant manager. “If we show pride in our facility and food, it makes more people want to come eat and dine with us. We’re teaching them to think out of the box and try new things, if we do the same thing it tends to get old or repetitive.”
For the Rakkasan Soldier’s competing, the chance to venture away from their normal duties and learn new culinary skills is exciting.
“I normally work in the kitchen, I’m a meat cook usually,” said Spc. Damond Anthony Curry, culinary specialist. “I’m trying to step out of my lane and try something different. For the competition I’m helping to bake cakes and I’m also ice sculpting. These are two new things I’ve never done before, so I’m excited for it.”
“Grand Royal Feast”
The 2nd Brigade Dining Facility’s theme is “Grand Royal Feast,” with glamorous design elements and lots of traditional food fit for a holiday feast.
“Our concept is grand royalty, kings and queens,” said Sgt. First Class Aquita Evans, 2nd BCT Dining Facility manager. “Our color scheme is white, gold and burgundy. Warm and inviting colors, we wanted to take it in a different direction than last year with a focus on simple elegance. Last year we went for the outrageous and cartoony with our ‘Wizard of Oz’ theme.”
The 2nd Brigade Dining Facility won the Commanding General’s Annual Thanksgiving Best Dining Facility Competition in 2019 thanks to their over-the-top decorating skills. They are determined to showcase their eye for detail again this year.
“We wanted to be different and put our own spin on the concept,” Evans said. “We get an allotted amount of money for the DFAC per cycle, so then I get price quotes on all of the decorations and then make the purchases using our allotted money for the competition. All of the Soldiers help create and build the decorations.”
Soldiers also expand and hone-in on their decorating skills while participating in the competition.
“I’m normally a chef leader, I’m responsible for keeping Soldiers on task and getting the meals out on time and using proper sanitation,” said Sgt. Quinisha Smith, culinary specialist. “Baking is something I’ve always liked, and I’ll be helping to bake the cakes and deserts for the competition. We have a three-tier cake we are making, which is like next level baking for our area of specialty, so this will broaden what we are able to do. This competition gives our Soldiers something to look forward to and build skills with.”
101st Division Sustainment Brigade’s Sun Café’s theme is “Cars,” they will be incorporating the style elements of classic cars and may even have a few cars to show off for guests as well.
“When we told our Soldiers the theme, they were expecting it to go along the lines of the Disney movie,” said Sgt. First Class Frank Boltze, 101st DSB Dining Facility manager. “We’re focusing more on old school cars, racing, classic cars.”
Boltze said they are working to incorporate a car show element, or an ice sculpture display alongside their food and decorations.
“We’re still including our traditional cornucopias and our brigade cake, unit cake, division cake, and our bible cake,” he said. “We’re working on making an old school gas pump, different car elements in the food, and then our typical holiday meal food.”
Hoping to make a mark with originality, Boltze said they are focusing on incorporating design and food elements not normally seen at a DFAC.
“You don’t really see dining facilities host car shows,” he said. “We’re hoping that and the ice carvings help push us over the top.”
Competing together, learning new skills from each other, and expressing creativity is a major morale booster for his culinary team, Boltze said.
“I normally work on the food lines or cooking the meats,” said Spc. Edwin Alvarado, culinary specialist. “For the competition I’m building cakes and building the cornucopia display out of paper maché. It’s new for me, this is my first time competing. I think this is a good opportunity for [noncommissioned officers] to share their knowledge and things they are good at, but for young Soldiers to give new things their best shoot.”
Everyone attending 1st Brigade Combat Team’s Snipes Dining Facility during the competition will feel like they’ve hopped onto a life-size version of the classic boardgame, Monopoly.
“You are actually going to get to feel like you are the Monopoly piece playing the game,” said Staff Sgt. Tassia O’Neal, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Bastogne Thanksgiving team. “It’s a really fun theme that we are incorporating here for the Soldiers and their Families.”
O’Neal said the team had a rocky start planning for the competition because of their recent return from Joint Readiness Training Center-Fort Polk, Louisiana. However, the dice are rolling now.
The team gathered a stack of Monopoly boards, from classic to modern, to research their theme.
“We have kept everything pretty basic, except for our Monopoly sign that is going to be posted outside our building,” she said. “We wanted to include Bastogne wholeheartedly, because that’s who we are. We have a lot of Bastogne pride here.”
In addition to setting the menu, culinary specialists have been hard at work building and decorating props to fill the dining facility. O’Neal said they are carving ice sculptures, painting backdrops for a photo booth, and creating a papier-mache three-dimensional Monopoly man.
“We are trying to incorporate as much hand skills and creativity as possible into this competition,” she said.
Game pieces such as the classic thimble, ship and iron also will make an appearance.
O’Neal said new Soldiers learned how to use tallow while molding the game pieces for the competition. Tallow is a fatty substance made from rendered animal fat.
The competition is a special time for everyone to witness the true potential of all culinary specialists, she said.
“What people fail to understand is that being a 92G … we are artists. What we make is art. Our products are art. It’s more than just the food aspect,” O’Neal said. “Everything we do has some type of artwork to it. Sometimes I think people forget what are actually capable of creating.”
Being able to come together to work on a project as a team has been a major morale boost, she said.
“COVID-19 did play a big part on everybody, but we are the one MOS that does not get a break,” O’Neal said. “We are a fulltime job, Monday through Sunday, for full effect. We are the backbone of the Army. For us, Thanksgiving is the Super Bowl. This is our chance to showcase our talents and skills.”
She said she is honored to serve Soldiers and Families especially during the holiday season.
“For the Soldiers and Families who cannot go home or travel, it is very essential that we do the best that we possibly can,” O’Neal said. “Especially at times like this, it can be very hard on a person and their spirit. The Army is already a tough enough job, so it’s our job to make sure we take care of everyone who comes through our dining facility.”
The 5th Special Forces Group and NCO Academy DFACs also will compete in the competition.
Identified DFACs will serve an additional traditional meal on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, at the standard meal rate.
Commanding General's Best Decorated Dining Facility Competition
•5th Special Forces Group dining facility, 2991 Indiana Ave., 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 23.
•Noncommissioned Officer Academy dining facility, 7523 Headquarters Loop Road, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Nov. 24.
•1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility, 4061 59th St., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 24.
•2nd Brigade Combat Team dining facility, 7048 Rhineland Drive, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 24.
•3rd Brigade Combat Team dining facility, 6761 A Shau Valley Road, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 24.
•Division Sustainment Brigade’s Son’s Cafe, 6755 A Shau Valley Road, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 24.
For non-meal cardholders the cost for the holiday meal is $9.20, or $6.85 for Soldiers with the rank of E-4 and below as well as their Family members.