Military cooks show off their skills in culinary competition _ las vegas review-journal

The scents — of pork grilling and vegetables roasting and aromatics sauteing — could be detected in the hallway outside the Trinidad Pavilion at the Tropicana hotel, long before the military cooks who were responsible for them could even be seen.

It was there, inside the ballroom and working in kitchen areas that could only be described as makeshift, that cooks representing the Army Reserves and the Navy were making a strong case that the word “mess” should forever be banned in any discussion of military cuisine.

The daylong Military Culinary Competition Saturday at the Tropicana was a celebration of both veterans and food.

Fried pork chops pioneer woman It featured eight teams of current and former military cooks, as well as cooks who weren’t cooks in the military but pursued culinary careers afterward.

Ed Manley, founder of the competition, works with veterans, including homeless veterans, in programs that include culinary training through his Military Hospitality Alliance and nonprofit Veteran’s Support Network. Smothered pork chops oven This year’s Military Culinary Competition was the 13th he has organized, but the first one in Las Vegas.

The eight teams competing were made up of four cooks each. Pork chops recip Most were active duty or reserve service members, while two teams were made up of Las Vegas-based veterans. Good pork chops During the course of three rounds of cooking, the field was reduced from eight to four and then to the final two, all competing for a total of $7,000 in prizes.

In each round, competitors created dishes from baskets of mystery ingredients both familiar (pork loin, potatoes and pastas) and a bit more esoteric (blood oranges, flax seed and Asian pear). Crock pot pork chops and potatoes Their work then was judged by three tasting judges, who evaluated their food, and three kitchen judges, who evaluated their teamwork, organization and kitchen practices.

“We treat this as a training exercise,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Danny Wolf, who brought two teams of Army reservists to the competition.

Active duty personnel have more time to train than reservists, Wolf said, and reservist cooking teams tend to be more hamstrung than active-duty teams by the demands of family and their civilian jobs.

In addition to giving military cooks experience and skills that translate to the field, competitions can offer civilians a broader perspective of what military cooking is about.

“Something else we do is we take some of them to schools that have culinary arts programs, and kids love it,” Wolf said, adding that many civilians “think Army cooking is like ‘M.A.S.H.’ ”

After each round, the dishes were critiqued by the chef-judges. Ways to cook thin pork chops Master Sgt. Pork chops and stuffing Jordana Jordan is an active-duty enlisted aide at Nellis Air Force Base whose duties include cooking. Best way to cook pork chops She appreciated the judges’ critiques, but deemed the toughest part of the competition “not knowing exactly what they wanted to see.”

Pranava Moody, who represented Las Vegas veterans in the event and who spent a portion of her Air Force service as a cook, said members gained “really good experience” that will serve them well in future competitions.

Army veteran Christopher Esguerra has cooked in challenging conditions before. A marinade for pork chops He says he spent 10 years in the Army as a cook, serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

“When you’re in the mountains, you don’t follow your menu,” said Esguerra, a Southern Nevadan who will complete his culinary studies in a few weeks. Fried pork chops sides “Whatever they have is what you use. How to cook good pork chops Supply is very rare.”

But whether it’s cooking for judges at the Tropicana or cooking for servicemen and servicewomen in the field, Esguerra said his goal is “making people happy. Easy smothered pork chops in crock pot If they like what they eat, I’m thrilled to death.”

Celebrity chef Robert Irvine, a special guest at the competition, could relate. Quick pork chops He served as a cook in the Royal Navy and next year will open a restaurant at the Tropicana.

Asked if he might be experiencing a flashback or two, Irvine laughed. The best way to cook pork chops “We never used to have (chef) jackets. Recipes pork chops We used to have T-shirts and little McDonald’s hats,” he said. Baked pork chops oven “Now they’ve got jackets with patches.”

Irvine said military culinary experience tends to translate well into commercial kitchens. Pork chops how to cook Military cooks are used to high-volume, he noted, and “the military teaches leadership skills, teamwork, organizational skills that you don’t necessarily have in the outside world. Recipes for pork chops on the stove It teaches you how to problem-solve quickly while being calm.”

After two rounds of competition, it comes down to a team from the Army Reserves and a team from the Navy in a tag team format. Smothered pork chops pressure cooker Audience member Susan Staed of Green Bay, Wisconsin, watched intently with a practiced eye honed on watching lots of TV cooking competitions.

“That last team, their menu was very sophisticated,” Staed said, while, “the last time, they used beer in their Alfredo sauce. Recipes for pork chops with mushrooms So that was very interesting.”

Staed was in town for a conference and found the competition while checking out entertainment possibilities for the weekend. Smothered pork chops and potatoes She left with both a photo of herself with Irvine and cooking tips from a few of the chefs.

Read more from John Przybys at Fried pork chops bone in Contact him at and follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter. Smothered pork chops in pressure cooker Root vegetables fascinate… Smothered pork chops onion gravy Taco Bell opens first…