8th Army chef wins culinary arts award
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Jerk chicken and mango salsa accompanied by cranberry walnut couscous with sautéed asparagus.
Dinner at a 5-star restaurant? No, that's what Pvt. Chainisha Williams cooked to clinch the bronze medal at the 37th Annual U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee, Va., March 9.
The 20-year-old food service specialist with Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Eighth Army, credits her dad for her love of cooking.
"I've cooked since I was 5-years-old," Williams said. "I always watched my dad cooking. He was really good at home-made chili. I'm really happy when I'm in the kitchen."
Williams competed against a tough field of 18 others in the Junior Chef category at the largest culinary arts competition in North America.
The annual event pits Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and Department of Defense personnel from all over the world against each other.
Williams decided on the spicy Jamaican dish after several attempts at making almond crusted chicken just didn't come out right.
"Not only does it have to taste good, it has to look good," she said. "The judges were hard. It was very meticulous. You really had to pay attention to serving size and calories. It was really hard to actually place."
Williams was one of only two privates on the Korea-wide team. She ended up placing three times, winning bronze in Junior Chef, Field Cooking Competition and Individual Platter Display.
"I thought I was going to lose," she said. "The whole time I was sitting there I was thinking I really don't think I'm going home with a medal."
Working at Honor's Café has opened her eyes to all the different cuisines out there.
"I'm really not a picky eater," Williams said. "I will try everything at least once."
After a slight pause, she adds, "Escargot … I wouldn't do it."
Williams is not resting on her laurels.
She already has her eyes set on the upcoming Philip A. Connelly competition.
As for her last meal on earth, Williams says she would request barbeque ribs, macroni and cheese, black eyed peas and greens. All cooked by her father, of course.