DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. – Nine service members assigned to the 512th Memorial Affairs Squadron competed in the 2019 John L. Hennessy food service competition March 9 at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia.
John L. Hennessy, recognized by U.S. presidents as a leader in his field, served as a special food consultant who improved military food service operations and inspired better management and command support of food service. The Hennessy Award program, honoring him, was established in 1957 to promote food service excellence.
The 512th MAS was one of four squadrons selected out of 39 eligible Air Force Reserve Command units.
Unlike past competitions, where the Hennessy Travelers Association evaluators visited the AFRC installations of competing teams, this year’s competition took place in one neutral location.
The evaluation team hosted the event at Dobbins ARB’s premier Force Support Silver Flag site, a facility where military personnel receive deployment training in classrooms and field environments.
“We came together to think of a creative and new way to do the competition,” said Chief Master Sgt. Dan Kelly, Services functional manager at Headquarters AFRC, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. “This is the first year we’re hosting here at Dobbins (ARB), where the teams will get to use a no-kidding kitchen.”
This year’s competition focused on a culinary arts aspect, which inspires a great opportunity for reservists to be imaginative while taking the competition in the right direction innovatively, Kelly added.
The 512th MAS team prepped and cooked meals from noon to 5 p.m. The evaluation team gauged their performance in excellence in management, force readiness support, food quality and production and training and safety awareness.
In the final 30 minutes of the event, the judges evaluated the 512th competitors on employee and customer relations as the cooking team served meals to trainees on the site. Judges also taste-tested an appetizer, three entrées and dessert to evalute.
Chief Master Sgt. Ryan Leveille, 512th MAS chief enlisted manager, who attended the competition, said the team had been training two months prior to the competition, and they worked hard to be there.
“The 512th MAS’s mission isn’t primarily food service,” said Leveille. “The competition is unique for us, because we get to showcase our culinary background, which is out of our norm.”
This year’s competition was a first for all 512th MAS reservists who took part.
Airman Lia Beaufort, a 512th MAS services apprentice, graduated from Services technical training only four months prior to competing only had two months of experience working in an Air Force dining facility before heading to Georgia to compete against elite teams.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Beaufort. “I learned to be cognizant of time management and how to do the best I can with limited resources. Team support really makes a difference.”
Beaufort said she now has insight of what to expect at future competitions, and she especially looks forward to participating again.
“The best part was being told you’re doing a good job from the colonel,” said Beaufort, referring to Col. Lisa Craig, director of Manpower, Personnel and Services at Robins AFB, who partook in test-tasting.
Leveille, who’d won the Hennessy award in the past, said the Dover reserve unit won the trophy in 2017, and he was fully confident they would prevail this year.
The Hennessy Travelers Association is expected to announce the Hennessy award winner around April.
Units competing this year were:
919th Special Operations Force Support Squadron, Duke Field, Florida;
459th Force Support Squadron, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland;
512th MAS, Dover AFB, Delaware, and
914th FSS, Niagara Falls ARB, New York.
The winner will attend the Hennessy Awards celebration in Chicago and will participate in a week long food service educational event.