Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Military Culinary Competition: Meet Keith Smith

SMSgt (Senior Master Sgt) Keith Smith.  Keith has been in every competition since the beginning; this will be his 7th.  He is the Superintendent of the Secretary of the Air Force/Chief of Staff of the Air Force Dining Room, prior to which he was on the household staff of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Make sure to come see him compete at the Barracks Row Fall Festival this Saturday, September 25th!  I'll be judging.

Tell us about your cooking background and your position in the military. 

Joined the Air Force in 1985 to be a cook, when cooking wasn’t cool, but also felt the love of cooking…From on the grill feeding breakfast omelets, to working the storeroom, I truly loved what foodservice had to offer.  Went on to the Pentagon to cook for high ranking officials at the AFEDF (Air Force Executive Dining Facility) with mentorship and guidance from Chief Alfonso Sisneros, whom set my path as a General’s Enlisted Aide.  With the experience/skills gained from the AFEDF, became an Enlisted Aide to TIG, VCJCS, CJCS and CSAF.  Now I have come back to my roots, so to speak and am Superintendant of the AFEDF, sharing my knowledge and experience with the newest generation of chefs for our military…

Favorite ingredient? Fresh Basil/Fresh herbs

What is your favorite cookbook? Joy of Cooking

What is comfort food for you?   

Of course it would have to be pizza, either homemade, or bought. Favorite is basil, mozzarella, slices of tomato, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil on the grill! So fresh and simple, love it…

What do you do in your free time when you're not working?  Family, Catering and golf whenever possible…haha

What would we find in your fridge? 

Ranch dressing, sour cream, ketchup, along with Romaine, carrots, celery and onions (pantry).  Everything else is day to day…

What are your most exciting challenges right now?
Forgetting that we were young once, a kiwi, mango, avocado, etc… is so foreign to the young chefs, that you have to start at the basics…Now, you have to become a teacher, and sharing your experiences with each individual is what they desire…

Share your favorite recipe? Very simple, but love it.
1 baguette (sliced into about 20 slices, placed into 350 degree oven to toast slightly, about 10 mins.)
1 cup minced Vidalia onions
1 cup shredded Parmesan
1 cup Mayo

Mix together last 3 ingredients and spread on toasted rounds and broil until browned and bubbly. 

Why do you think you can win the Military Culinary Competition?

Experience! Everyone at the competition has the skills, it’s a matter of knowing how to create a balanced menu and present your final product in the way the judges will appreciate all of your work… Will our team win, we’ll see.  Every year the competition gets so much better…Everyone knows what this means to their teams and have been working hard to improve on their last showing…I love the challenge and love the excitement I see with the new members on our team…

Anything else you'd like to share with the readers?

Being a Chef in the military is finally getting the recognition and respect that’s deserved.  The Army has been doing great things in the culinary world for so long; it’s time they are recognized for that.  The Navy has always supported and cherished their Chefs and are the one military service that supports the President of the US.

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