Fort Drum’s student chef team cooks up confidence for national competition

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Spc. Jonathan Arendale, a culinary specialist with 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, sends out another entrée for tasting. The Fort Drum Student Chef Team has been training and practicing their menu since May in preparation for the 2021 American Culinary Federation (ACF) National Competition in Orlando, Florida, Aug. 2-5. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Fort Drum’s student chef team has been working hard to train for their upcoming national competition.

The team consists of five culinary specialists from across the 10th Mountain Division. This group has been preparing since the beginning of May to compete at the American Culinary Federation National Competition in Orlando, Florida from August 2 to August 5.

The members have reported daily to the Fort Drum Culinary Arts Center with the goal of creating a championship-winning menu. Three out of the five members are new to the team after replacing others who have moved to new duty stations or had other military obligations.

The early portion of the teams training consisted of getting new members used to cooking competitively and advancing their culinary skills. In March 2020, Fort Drum earned entry to the ACF Nationals after winning the Student Chef of the Year title at the 45th Joint Culinary Training Exercise.

Members of the team include Spc. Jonathan Arendale, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team; Spc. Kenny Driscoll, 41st Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team; Spc. Dann Agcaoili, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team; Pfc. Jennifer Payan, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team; and Spc. Noe Dominguez, 593rd Quartermaster Company, 548th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 10th Mountain Sustainment Brigade.

Team coach and manager Sgt. Joshua Hoyt, said the team has worked hard to perfect their menu.

“We’ve definitely refined the plates along the way, but we all feel that we’ve maintained a menu that highlights fresh, seasonal food,” Hoyd said. “When you eat anything on the plate, it will have those summer flavors.”

Army Specialist Jonathan Arendale, one of the original team members who won the Student Chef of the Year trophy, and said he’s excited to compete again after the event’s cancellation last year.

“For me, this is a nice way to cap off my time as a culinary specialist here at Fort Drum,” Arendale said. “I was lucky to get selected to the team right after I got here two years ago, so this is pretty much what I’ve been working toward the entire time I’ve been here. As soon as I get back from the competition, I will be leaving for the Pentagon.”

“This is one of the first times I’ve had to help lead a group of people, and we’re all basically the same rank. They all know I’ve competed before and that I live this life, so it’s been an interesting experience working with this team,” he added.

The annual convention is the largest gathering of chefs, students and food service professionals in the U.S., and it features an array of cooking demonstrations, networking and social functions.

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