Top Gun? Nah, Top Chef

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Anabel Del Valle
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from Tyndall’s 325th Force Support Squadron represented the installation as they brought home a win in the first ever Emerald Coast Chef Competition hosted at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, June 30, 2022.

The Emerald Coast Chefs Competition served as a capstone for a regional shift leaders course. This course taught culinary Airmen from Tyndall, Elgin and Hurlburt field how to lead shifts in the front and back of dining facility operations, the importance of minimizing waste during one’s shift, properly logging inventory and maximizing junior Airmen’s potential. The competition was an innovative way to provide Airmen an opportunity to showcase what they learned.

The judges, who are local restaurant owners, were scoring based off of presentation, taste, creativity and originality. Each category had a maximum score of 15 points. Only one point was taken off of Team Tyndall’s dish, putting them ahead of the two competing teams.

“It made me miss my days working at the dining facility,” recalled Senior Master Sgt. Ayana Hodges, 325th FSS senior enlisted leader. “Working as a team is something I could tell came natural to the Airmen. Being able to gel so easily into their dynamic and earn a win was the most rewarding part of this.”

According to Tyndall’s chefs, all three of their favorite flavors influenced the final decision on what to present to the judges.

“It was definitely a collision of culture,” laughed Tech. Sgt. Arnold Sandoval, 325th FSS dining facility manager. “We took a little bit of everyone’s personality and culture to put together in a somehow spicy, sweet and savory plate.”

In under two hours, the group prepared potatoes as an appetizer and jerk chicken with coconut infused rice and peppers for the main course, a dish they say is Latin and Caribbean Island inspired.

“It felt amazing coming back to Tyndall with a win,” explained Senior Airman Roosevelt Alexander, 325th FSS food service apprentice. “After the hurricane we were in a standstill trying to recover, but this win goes to show that we are coming back stronger than ever.”