This Soldier Can Cook

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By Dona Fair

FORT LEE, Va. – The son of a Carteret couple recently traded his Kevlar helmet for a chef’s hat during one of the largest culinary competitions of its kind in the United States.

Army Spec. Brian F. Visciglia, son of Francisco and Beatriz Visciglia of Lincoln Ave., Carteret, was a competitor in the 35th Culinary Arts Competition which was held March 4 – 12 in “Kitchen Stadium” at the Fort Lee Field House.

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The competition brought together more than 200 competitors from 26 military installations, who “brought it to the table” for a chance to be named the best of the best military food specialists.

From ice sculptures, seafood, wild game, pastries, and amazing centerpieces made from chocolate, the competition had it all.  There were cold food displays, ice carvings, and daily live cooking demonstrations by the original “Grill Sergeant,” Army Sgt. 1st Class Brad Turner Jr., and TV personality, restaurateur, and home décor authority, B. Smith.

For some, it was their first time competing, and for others it was a chance to try and reach a goal that they have yet to achieve.

“This is my first time to compete here, and I wanted the experience,” said Visciglia, who is assigned to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas.  “It’s a great chance to demonstrate our skills and challenge ourselves while learning from our competitors and teammates.”

Sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation, the competition was open to military members from all services.  The competition has taken place every year since 1973, with the exception of 1991 during Desert Storm and 2003 during the Iraq War kickoff.

For Visciglia, getting to the competition was no easy task.  It took weeks of practice, lost sleep, and going back to the basics to refresh skills and techniques that may not have been used recently.

“I prepared for this competition through practice, practice, practice,” said the 1998 graduate of Carteret High School.  “I also went through a lot of trial and error as well as experimenting with different materials and methods.”

In addition to recognizing the skills and talents of the competitors, the Culinary Arts Competition also served as a unique opportunity for Visciglia and the other competitors to interact with world-class culinary professionals and gain valuable knowledge that will further enhance their careers.  Judges and instructors from England, Sweden, and other countries were brought in to provide valuable feedback to the participants.  Many of the judges belong to the American Culinary Federation and World Association of Chefs societies.

“I hope to gain more knowledge in our field and help promote what we do to others,” said Visciglia.

As part of the competition, two teams squared off daily in field kitchens.  They were responsible for preparing and plating 75 five-star meals which were available to ticket holders for $4.25, a fraction of what diners would pay at a regular five-star restaurant.  This gave the general public a chance to experience the high quality meals that were prepared by Visciglia and his fellow competitors.

Featuring more than 500 judged events, the participants fought for trophies and special awards in the following categories:  Best Team Exhibit; Best Exhibit; Special Judges Award; Most Artistic Piece; Best Overall Table Exhibit in the Competition; Best Entry Contemporary; Nutritional Hot Food Challenge Team of the Year; Best Centerpiece in Ice; Field Cooking Team Competition; Junior Chef of the Year; Culinary Knowledge Bowl Champions; Chef of the Year; National Culinary Champion of the U.S. Military; National Pastry Champion of the U.S. Military; and Installation of the Year.

Medals that the competitors received from American Culinary Federation entries can be used towards certification as a chef.


Army Spec. Brian F. Visciglia was a competitor at the 35th Culinary Arts Competition which was held recently at Fort Lee, Va.  The competition is one of the largest culinary competitions of its kind in the United States.  (Photo by Daren Reehl)

The culinary team from Fort Hood, Texas works together in an offsite kitchen to prepare items that will be featured on their cold food display table at the 35th Culinary Arts Competition, Fort Lee, Va.  (Photo by Daren Reehl)

A member of the Fort Bragg, N.C. culinary team uses a spoon to count asparagus while setting up their cold food display table at the 35th Culinary Arts Competition.  The competition is sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation and showcases the talents of military chefs from around the world.  (Photo by Daren Reehl)

Cherry Pastry Cr?mes wrapped in chocolate cake, wood grain jacamode served on a Baumkuchen, with a poached Chilean plum and cherry chutney is one of the desserts displayed on the cold food display table by Fort Bragg during the recent 35th Culinary Arts Competition, Fort Lee, Va.  (Photo by Daren Reehl)

Culinary Judges count food items on a cold food display table at the 35th Culinary Arts Competition.  Judges and instructors from England, Sweden, and other countries are brought in to provide valuable feedback to the competitors.  (Photo by Daren Reehl)

Judges awarded a gold medal to one of Fort Bragg’s cold food dessert displays during the 35th Culinary Arts Competition, Fort Lee, Va. (Photo by Daren Reehl)

In a field kitchen environment, the Army Reserve’s culinary team went head-to-head with another culinary team during the 35th Culinary Arts Competition, Fort Lee, Va.  For this event, each team was required to prepare 75 five-star meals that would later be served to the general public.  (Photo by Daren Reehl)

The Army Reserve’s culinary team serves gourmet meals to the general public during the field kitchen event at the 35th Culinary Arts Competition, Fort Lee, Va.  (Photo by Daren Reehl)


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