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Malmstrom's warrior chefs hungry for Global Strike Challenge win

  • Published
  • By John Turner
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Three NCOs from the 341st Force Support Squadron will demonstrate their culinary mastery Oct. 7 as they represent the 341st Missile Wing in Air Force Global Strike Command's first Global Strike Challenge 2015 Outstanding Chef Competition at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

Staff Sgts. Justin Reynolds, Stephen Marvin and Derek Cruz will have three hours to prepare a main course and dessert as they compete against six other teams in an outdoor venue. The primary ingredient required in each dish will be revealed the night before, allowing each team to develop a strategy. A panel of ten judges will grade each plate on taste, texture, tenderness, creativity and overall presentation.

The winning team will be revealed Oct. 21 during the Global Strike Challenge score posting event.

While creating a meal guaranteed to impress ten different palates is a tall order, Reynolds, the team's captain, is confident Malmstrom will whisk away the inaugural victory.

"If all three of us agree on a flavor and we can execute it, I think we'll have a winning product," he said.

The team advanced to the Outstanding Chef Competition team through the wing's 3rd Quarter Warrior Chef Competition Aug. 24. Together, Reynolds, Marvin and Cruz wowed local judges by planning and preparing tri-tip roast with roasted leeks, loaded mashed potatoes and blackberry crepes within an hour and a half and incorporating three ingredients revealed at the start of the event.

"In a way, the actual (GSC) competition may be easier," Reynolds said, noting that the team will have several hours instead of mere minutes to plan an approach. "We can sit around and ponder what we're going to make and throw some ideas at each other."

All three members have broad experience with food preparation and bring diverse culinary knowledge from all over the world through their individual cultural upbringings as well as from various military assignments and deployments. As teammates, they bring all that together to create unique flavors.

"We've all been to a lot of different places in the world," Reynolds said. "And you're always around different types of chefs from around the world and you get to pick up on a lot of different things."

Cruz said his parents taught him how to cook starting at a young age in Puerto Rico. His style is influenced by Spanish and Caribbean flavors, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of spices.

"The sun never set on the Spanish Empire at one point so you can imagine the variety of flavors they brought to the culinary aspect of things," Cruz said. "Anywhere from Southern Spain to Northern Africa, Morocco, those flavors captivate me."

Cruz has been in the Air Force for seven years--his anniversary date coincides with the GSC competition--and at Malmstrom for a year and a half. He is married and has a daughter, and plans to someday commission as an Air Force officer.

Despite his passion for cooking, Montana is Cruz's first Air Force assignment working in food service. He is currently the NCO in charge of training missile field chefs.

"I've been waiting for this chance to show what abilities I hold," Cruz said.

Marvin is from Colorado and has been in the Air Force almost nine years. He recently transferred from the 819th RED HORSE Squadron to the 341st FSS to become the morning shift supervisor at the dining facility. He has been at Malmstrom three years, is married, and plans to open a restaurant after he retires from the military.

"Most of my career has been cooking," Marvin said, adding that before he came into the Air Force his original passion was preparing sushi. His style is influenced by recipes and garnishes of Asia, especially of Korea through his family, and Europe. He said he learned most of what he knows about cooking at Little Rock, Arkansas, where the focus was on the flavor and tenderness of meat and the quality of the product as a whole.

"I have an appreciation for learning different techniques and concepts of cooking from all these different people, and for turning food into art while making it delicious at the same time," Marvin said.

Reynolds is from Ohio and has been in the Air Force 11 years, three at Malmstrom. Most of his Air Force career has been in food service including recent duties in the missile complex. He is married and has three children.

He said he learned a lot about cooking while in Japan and Korea. But if the theme of the GSC competition leans toward Louisianan cuisine, he's ready for that--he prepared many seafood specials while assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

"I think the team we have is really going to pose a problem for younger teams," Reynolds said. "Being able to have this experience and know we can step out of the box on any variety of food is a benefit."

Cruz agreed, joking that he was surrounded by water for 20 years and is not a stranger to seafood either.

"That's where we're strong, being so diverse and growing up in different parts of the United States," Cruz said. "We have a working knowledge of growing up with these flavors and tastes."

Global Strike Challenge is the world's premier bomber, intercontinental ballistic missile and security forces competition. Through competition and teamwork at various locations throughout the country, the event looks to foster esprit de corps, recognize outstanding AFGSC personnel and teams and improve combat capabilities. More than 450 Airmen from across AFGSC, as well as the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command, Air Force Materiel Command and Air Combat Command will take part in Global Strike Challenge competitions at various locations throughout the country.