FORT LEE, Va. (March 17, 2011) -- While the 36th Annual Culinary Arts Competition came to a close Friday, the work of one competitor is moving toward a whole new level.
Sgt. 1st Class Steven Broome was named the Army's Enlisted Aide of the Year. He is an aide for Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff for the Army.
He will now compete at the Department of Defense/Department of Homeland Security Enlisted Aide of the Year Competition set for later this year.
The other competitors were Staff Sgt. Edmond Perez, enlisted aide of Lt. Gen. Guy Swan, U.S. Army North commanding general; and Sgt. Marc Susa, enlisted aide of Gen. James D. Thurman, Forces Command commanding general.
During the culinary competition, the three enlisted aides competed for that top spot during a four-event schedule, said Navy Culinary Specialist Senior Chief Frank Davila, enlisted aide training course lead instructor on post.
The events included uniform rigging, a leadership board, two written exams and a four-course meal. Davila said the events capture part of what it's like to be an enlisted aide. For example, the uniform rigging event had each competitor working on a general's uniform and putting it together for a meeting, conference or other event.
"During the four-course meal, the competitors plan and organize the menu, shop for the ingredients and set up tables for two similar to if they were cooking for the general and his spouse at their residence," Davila said. "That's what enlisted aides do - they perform several functions within general's private quarters."
The four-course meal event was held at the post field house March 9 and only added to the overall stress of the competition, said Broome.
"Aside from the uniform rigging, exams and board appearance, coming to the Post Field House to compete just adds that pressure," he said. "You prep somewhere else and come into this kitchen and try to cook a meal."
Broome also competed at the Armed Forces Chef of the Year event. He's attended the culinary competition for several years, and he said it's one of his favorite parts of being a culinarian.
"It's a lot of fun, but tiring," said Broome. "I love doing this - coming down to compete."
The enlisted aide competition is the only event that tests the competitors for multiple days.
"It's been pretty rough," said Perez. "It's a four-day competition . We start pretty early each day, and it takes up most of the day."
Each of the competitors said support from his general was important in getting to the competition.
"It's a rewarding career field," said Broome. "General Chiarelli is great. He was very supportive when I wanted to come to this competition and wrote me a great letter of recommendation. He told me to come down here and represent the Army well."
Susa said his general showed him the e-mail and asked him if he wanted to go. Susa replied "Roger, sir."
Perez said he received total support from his general.
"As soon as I told him about this competition, he said tell me what to do to sign you up," said Perez.
Keeping up with the other enlisted aides is what Susa looks forward to the most.
"My favorite part of the competition is getting to know the other enlisted aides and what they do with their general and just share information - network on where to go next, etc.," he said.
Having the enlisted aide competition during the annual culinary event adds importance to the career field, said Davila.
"It's important because these competitors are also culinarians," said Davila. "One part of their responsibilities is to cook for these generals. It's important for the aides to be recognized for their work."
Showing his work as a culinarian was the best part of the event, said Perez.
"The cooking part of the competition has been my favorite part - I think all of us enjoy the cooking aspect of our job as enlisted aides the most," he said.
Aside from the enlisted aide competition, each of the competitors competed in other events, and all tried out and earned spots on the U.S. Army Culinary Arts team. Broome earned one gold medal and one silver, Perez earned three silver medals and Susa earned three silver medals and two bronze.