By: Sgt. 1st Class Kelvin Ringold, 13th ESC Public Affairs
WEST FORT HOOD, Texas- Soldiers are the Army’s number one priority and the backbone for its success. As modernization efforts continue across the Army, evolving improvements in support of III Corps’ readiness and quality of life initiatives for Soldiers are vital to the success of the warfighter.
The 61st Quartermaster Battalion, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, held the inaugural Taste Fest event March 12 at the Always Ready Warrior Restaurant.
Culinary specialists from around III Corps are always looking for ways to modernize their menus, and Taste Fest provided them that chance.
“Guests had the opportunity to sample a variety of healthy, vegetarian and vegan options,” said Warrant Officer Heidi-Ann Wallace, food advisor, 13th ESC. March is also National Nutrition Month and there is no better way to fuel our warrior’s pallets than with high-performance meals.”
When plans for modernizing their menu came up, Sgt. 1st Class Jeanne Whitfield, noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Always Ready Warrior Restaurant, welcomed the opportunity with opened arms.
“I was really excited for the event because we have a lot of Soldiers who care about their nutrition and what foods they put in their bodies,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield has been a culinary specialist for 15 years and was eager to learn the new menu items alongside her Soldiers.
“They didn’t have this training when I was coming up,” Whitfield explained. “This enables us to give a healthier variety of choices to Soldiers.”
In order to teach the Soldiers these new menu items, Chef Trace Fisher volunteered to help.
Based in Florida, Fisher has over 15 years in the culinary field, and vegan food items are one of his many specialties.
“I encouraged them to see a recipe as a guideline and not a shackle,” Fisher said. “Working with vegan food is not that different and you can eat and cook just as well as with traditional meals.“
Autaugaville, Alabama native, Pv2 Kamron Johnson from 553rd Field Feeding Company, has not been out of advanced individual training long, and was excited to get hands-on experience.
“A lot of people prefer vegetarian or vegan items, but not a lot of people know that,” Johnson said.
For the event, five culinary specialists prepared different menu items from breakfast, lunch and dinner, with choices ranging from vegan breakfast burritos with scrambled tofu, stuffed avocados with quinoa salad or homemade spinach pasta with fresh vegetable ragu, to name a few.
Spc. Stephanie Bryant, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, has been a culinary specialist for the past five years and prepared the stuffed avocado with quinoa salad.
“I love avocados, but never had quinoa before, and wanted to learn how to cook it,” Bryant said.
Soldiers and leaders all sampled from the five-star food spread and walked away wanting more.
Pfc. Michael Corrales, 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, is an avid meat consumer and was surprised at how good the items were.
“You get a lot of misinformation about vegan food and how it won’t taste as good,” Corrales Expressed. “I couldn’t tell it was vegan. They did a great job using balanced flavors and it all tasted great!”
Ultimately, Soldiers enjoy lighter meals that are nutritionally sound and these new items will be something all restaurants across III Corps can incorporate to help develop highly trained, disciplined and fit teams.
“The customers were excited to see the upcoming additions to our menu,” Wallace said. “They were surprised at how amazing the food tasted while also being healthy. Our culinarians acquired new techniques they will implement at their respective restaurants.”