Recently, our men and women in uniform traded in their battlefield on land and sea for a battlefield in the kitchen. The Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE), held at Fort Lee, Virginia is the largest military culinary competition in North America. It’s designed to promote growth in the culinary profession and has been held every year since 1973, except for 1991 and 2003 during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This 8-day competition is sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and showcases the talents of military cooks and chefs from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and around the globe.
A Competition that Promotes Collaboration
While the JCTE does incorporate categories for individuals, this competition focuses mainly on team building and camaraderie. Teams compete against ACF standards in various categories, rather than each other. Thus encouraging one another and creating an atmosphere of ‘brotherhood’ and friendly rivalries.
This event spotlights culinary and pastry students, but challenges for Chefs are also included. Teams and individuals are engaged in live cooking experiences and stationary food displays including works of art in pastries, seafood, wild game, and statuesque centerpieces. Each team is allowed to choose the theme of their presentation within each category.
There is really only one event where teams battle each other and that’s for the “Best in Show” category. Therefore, it is highly likely that many teams leave the competition with a Gold or Silver status, as they compete against the ACF standards.
Escoffier Chef Instructor Participates as Presenter
For the past three years, Escoffier has participated in this prestigious JCTE event. This year, Certified Executive Chef and Escoffier Online Culinary Arts Chef Instructor, Kevin Quinn, was invited to be a presenter. He gave a live demonstration of seafood paella and answered questions from students in the 50-seat audience.
Everyone is a Winner
Fort Lee is an Army training installation and home to culinary professions in all of the U.S. armed forces. It is central to both military culinary students and chefs, and many who train here go on to cook for Generals and other military executives. So, while this particular event is in fact a competition, everyone based here is a winner in the culinary field.
Some of the 2020 competition categories and winning bases/armed forces include:
- Best Cold Food Presentation: Fort Carson/Army
- Special Judges Award – Culinary Showpiece: USMC
- Best Hot Food Kitchen: Fort Stewart/Army
- Student Team Champion: Fort Drum/Army
- Armed Forces Student Chef of the Year: Fort Carson/Army
- Armed Forces Chef of the Year: U.S. Coast Guard
- Armed Forces Pastry Chef of the Year: USMC
- Armed Forces Master Chef of the Year: USMC
- Judges Award – Best in Show: Fort Drum/Army
Winners in all categories received a $1,500 Escoffier scholarship to be used towards a Diploma in Culinary Arts and Operations or a Diploma in Professional Pastry Arts program. This award can be used in addition to other forms of military grants and aid. Should they choose to pursue a culinary or pastry education through Escoffier, the programs can be accomplished through the online program while still on active duty, or used as a gateway to a new profession after leaving the military.
Chef Kevin sums up his JCTE experience this way:
“I thought the competition was amazing. All of the soldiers that competed should be commended. It makes all of these competitors a better chef, and more importantly a better cook”. He is also looking forward to the future of JCTE where Escoffier can play an even larger role helping to provide advanced classes and direct culinary instruction to service men and women.
A Military Friendly Education
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts-Boulder was recently awarded ‘Military Friendly’ designation, having demonstrated the highest levels of student support and student satisfaction as required by the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration. Escoffier’s staff are dedicated to supporting military and veteran students. They are prepared and ready to support the specific and unique challenges of our military affiliated students.
If you are active duty military personnel or a veteran and would like more information about culinary or pastry education at Escoffier, please visit our website or contact us directly at 855-893-5997.