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December 8, 2014 at 5:20pm

JBLM soldier brings the heat during culinary arts team tryouts

Sgt. Andrew Shurden, a food services specialist with the 42nd Military Police Brigade, prepares a potato dish during tryouts for the JBLM culinary arts team Nov. 21. Photo credit: Sgt. James J. Bunn

The palpable scent of spices and steak filled the air as Sgt. Andrew Shurden, displayed his cooking skills at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Culinary Arts Team tryouts in November 2014.

If selected, Shurden, a food services specialist with the 42nd Military Police Brigade, and 15 other food services soldiers will compete in the Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event at Fort Lee, Va. in March.

The JBLM team will consist of eight team members, four student team members and four alternates. At the competition, the team will compete in eight events including the Armed Forces Chef of the Year, Armed Forces Student Chef of the Year, nutrition cook off, culinary exam, military kitchen competition, team buffet, student competitive training event and dessert competition.

Shurden competed twice at the MCACTE with a team from Hawaii and said he hopes his skills and experience will earn him a spot on the JBLM team.

"I liked being on the team in Hawaii," said Shurden. "I was able to learn more about being a chef and develop my skills beyond the dining facility."

Shurden will need more than sharp knife skills and tasty food to earn a spot on the team. The judges will score competitors using the same criteria as the American Culinary Federation and are looking for chefs that can work well in a team, exhibit good work habits, and strong cooking and organizational skills.

"First and foremost we're looking at how well these chefs work in the kitchen," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jesse Ward, one of the judges at the tryouts. "Second is skills used during the food preparation. We want to know that the flavors are good and the temperatures are correct."

>>> Sgt. Andrew Shurden slices beef tenderloin during tryouts for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord culinary arts team. Photo credit: Sgt. James J. Bunn

At the beginning of the tryouts team hopefuls had an opportunity to plan their menu for the cook off. The next two days competitors refined their menu selections and practiced cooking techniques.

Shurden has his sights set on competing in the Armed Forces Chef of the Year portion of the MCACTE. In this, category competitors have an hour and 15 minutes to cook and plate a meal using a mystery ingredient.

For the tryouts the mystery ingredient was beef tenderloin. Shurden quickly trimmed the beef, sliced it into steaks and prepared it for the grill, posing little challenge for the chef. His finished plate was a filet mignon on top of a blueberry red wine reduction topped with fried leeks, asparagus and layered potatoes.

"Before I joined the Army I was a chef at a barbeque restaurant," said Shurden, a Tupelo, Mississippi native. "Meat preparation is probably my strongest skill in the kitchen."

Working in a restaurant Shurden trained to become a professional chef and achieve one of his lifelong goals, but being a chef wasn't his only dream. The chef wanted to be a soldier as well.  

"I joined the Army as a cook so I could serve my country and continue my career as a chef," said Shurden. "Being able to serve those who are serving is rewarding to me."

Shurden's love of cooking started long before working in a restaurant or a military dining facility, and he attributes it to his upbringing. My family is a major driving force when I step into the kitchen, added Shurden.

"I'm from Mississippi and food is a big part of life back home and it has always been important in my family," said Shurden. "I grew up watching my dad in the kitchen."

Shurden said he wants to compete at the MCACTE not just for fun but also for the opportunities that come from participating in the largest culinary arts competition in the United States.

Soldiers who do well at the Fort Lee competition often get recruited to work at the Pentagon's dining facility, said Shurden. It's a chance to broaden my skills in the kitchen and advance my career, he added.

Working as a chef in a place like the Pentagon requires a skilled professional. The tryouts not only helped decide the team, they also provided an opportunity for the chefs to raise their culinary excellence and professionalism and serves as a training event for all the competitors.

Shurden used his experience to answer questions from younger soldiers about the meal he was preparing and the techniques he was using. 

"I am more than happy to teach anyone about cooking," said Shurden. "Sharing what I know with others is as rewarding to me as knowing that someone enjoyed the food I prepared."

At the end of the cook-off the judges talked to all of the chefs about their food and offered critiques and constructive feedback.

"I want these guys to be able to take what they learn here and apply those skills in their unit's DFAC," said Ward. "This is a good way to build motivation in the soldiers competing and also improve the quality of food in their units.

Shurden is one of the top candidates for the team but he and the other competitors won't officially find out until February if they were selected for the JBLM team.

Filed under: Military, Contest,

October 3, 2014 at 12:25pm

Pacific Lutheran University student to compete at national chef competition

Jason Sipe, an MBA student and line cook at the Anderson University Center, has been selected to compete in the first-ever ment'or Young Chef Competition. Photo credit: John Froschauer/PLU

Pacific Luthern University announced one of its MBA students, Jason Sipe - a line cook at PLU's Anderson University Center - has been invited to the first-ever nationwide ment'or Young Chef Competition. The day before Halloween, Sipe will step into Chef Thomas Keller's acclaimed Bouchon Beverly Hills and compete for $10,000 - or $15,000 and "the stagiaire (internship) of a lifetime" at some of the nation's most well-respected restaurants - at the first-ever nationwide ment'or Young Chef Competition.

Let's read PLU's news release. ...


Filed under: Contest, Tacoma,

September 22, 2014 at 6:23pm

Aroma of Tacoma Pro-Am Pub Crawl coming to Sixth Avenue

Dioni De Morena won many medals at the 2014 Aroma of Tacoma Homebrew Championship. Stay standing for his beer Saturday. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Casey Williams and Trevor Nichol held their first annual home brewing contest during July, and competition was fierce. Titled the "Aroma of Tacoma Homebrew Championship," the duo invited home brewers from across the lands to brew beers using handcrafted products, containing ingredients available to the general public and made using private equipment. The competition had more in common with the Westminster dog show than it did a Betty Crocker pie-making competition. For a homebrew to rise to the top of the class, it had to match the style of one of the 23 categories recognized by the Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines. Winners in each category were then judged head-to-head to determine the "Best in Show," which was awarded to Dioni De Morena of Redmond. De Morena and the other home brewers received their awards the last Saturday morning in July in the Harmon Tap Room's beer garden. Beer was drank before 10 a.m. (natch).

Five beers from the competition were selected by local brewers to be brewed commercially, a Pro/Am selection, if you will:

Randall Breedlove brewed his The Geek IPA at Tacoma Brewing Co.;
Tim Frommer brewed his C. D. Saison ay Engine House No. 9;
Tony Ochsner brewed his Waimea Blood Orange Pale Ale at The RAM;
Jay Walker and Shawn Anderson brewed their Hop Denim Double IPA at Harmon Brewing Co.;
Dioni De Morena brewed his Die Wasp Kolsch at Wingman Brewers.

Williams and Nichol have added a final piece to their Aroma - a pub crawl. Saturday, the Pro-Am beers will be poured at Sixth Avenue drinking establishments. At noon, those who shelled out $35 here (still time!), will gather at The Red Hot to toss back 10-ounces of Frommer's C.D. Saison. Then drinkers - some wearing their commemorative T-shirts and some not - will walk across the street to the Engine House No. 9 and tip all 10-ounces of Ochsner's Waimea Blood Orange Pale. The Aroma of Tacoma Pro-Am Pub Crawl will then head east along Sixth Avenue until Williams and Nichol steer drinkers into O'Malley's Irish Pub for 10-ounces of Breedlove's The Greek IPA. Next, it's a short hop to Dirty Oscar's for the Hop Denim Double IPA invented by Walker and Anderson. At this point no one will complain about backtracking to the Crown Bar for 10-ounces of Best in Show winner De Morena's Die Wasp Kolsch.

The official crawl will end at 5 p.m. Some drinkers will walk away like pros, some like amateurs. It's safe to say most everyone will leave with smiles.

AROMA OF TACOMA PRO-AM PUB CRAWL, noon to 5 p.m., The Red Hot, 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, $35, AromaOfTacomaHBC.com

July 6, 2014 at 12:54pm

Harmon Brewing hosts Mini U.S. Open Putt Putt Tournament July 12

Bring your putters, golf balls and family to Harmon Brewing Company's Mini U.S. Open Putt Putt Tournament July 12 at The Hub/Harmon Tap Room.

I can see it now. Two men - each brandishing an obnoxiously large putter - approach the first tee at The Hub. On the hot, sunny Saturday afternoon, the testosterone of the middle-aged men fights through their silk designer shirts.

"I'm going first," shouts the brawniest in the duo.  Adjusting the brim of his Nike hat, he addresses his ball, takes a few seconds to review the cardinal rules - head down, eye on Titleist, please-dear-God-don't-let-me-gag-this-one-in-front-of-the-crowd - and then reveals an improbable herk ‘n' jerk backswing that breaks all laws of golf and physics. Even though the guy handles the putter like Don Knotts, the result is anything but clumsy: the ball rolls straight for six feet and drops in the hole. His friend nods in appreciation and golf-claps with his $2 Harmon Pinnacle Peak Pale Ale pint tucked between his knees.

The second player, thirsty to match his boisterous pal, takes a mighty hack at his ball. It smacks the back bumper, sailing into The Hub's wood-stoned pizza oven. No one says a word. He silently re-tees knocking it three inches from the cup.

I can totally see that happening at the Harmon Brewing Company's Mini U.S. Open Putt Putt Tournament Saturday, July 12. The nine-hole miniature golf tournament will span The Hub, Harmon Tap Room and Harmon Garden in Tacoma's Stadium District. The silk-shirted twosome will have their eyes on the grand prize - two free rounds at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, home of the 2015 U.S. Open. Their designer silk shirts may grab the Best Dress prize.

Back to the action. ... In The Hub's parking lot, two slackers - 20-somethings with plaid shirts hanging over fatigues - practice putts for beer. They pick the farther away tire and swear at themselves when they don't hit it on the first stroke.  They trash-talk like b-ballers and cough at inappropriate moments. They also cheat like hell, with subtle taps of their Vans.

Next to approach The Hub's first hole one is a young father - a dead ringer of Tiger Woods followed by his pregnant wife and preschool daughter - commences a rhythm of escape from the daily grind: putt, sip beer, putt, sip beer, sinks it. The wife - sporting a DMX tattoo on her dark ankle - sinks it in two.  Little Miss looks on as her mother's bloated belly sways with each shot; Mom giggles at her first-hole victory over Mr. Tiger, then pats the progeny that will soon make the family a foursome.

Next up, two Korean men are clad in nice pants, nice shirt, nice ties. One quickly tees up the ball; the other sinks it in two. They exchange positions and roles, the second gent sinking a hole-in-one. The only English spoken amidst their frantic, high-pitched discourse is a random, throaty "Good shot!"

The miniature golf action continues from The Hub below to the Harmon beer garden and Harmon Tap Room. Two-dollar pints are creating uproarious roars from the crowd. There is no whispering at the Harmon's Mini U.S. Open Putt Putt Tournament.

At 5 p.m. in the Harmon Garden, as his young sons buzz around him like nattily attired electrons, Dad has a worn-out look on his face underneath his old straw hat as he tries to survive the miniature golf course with three preteens. Not wanting to hurt feelings, he didn't partner with one of his sons, but instead chose his neighbor. Directions to the next hole doesn't matter much to the kids - they run ahead, run behind, just plain run around - and Dad trudges on and sighs. Old Straw Hat shakes his head as he peers through Buddy Holly glasses at the kids. Mrs. Old Straw Hat wants to run over and hug him.  

The crowd inside the Harmon Tap Room overflows. Tacoma public officials discuss why they left early, tossing back the drINK THIS White IPA brewed for the Tacoma Art Museum. Martha thanks her fellow hairstylists for the fun going-away party. Two twosomes settle up Mini U.S. Open bets.

Back out on the course, a bartender from the bar down the street caught the ball with the heel of the putter and it speeds off left toward the Harmon Garden's fence like a scalded cat. It flew over the shoulder of a brewer emerging from the keg cold room, ricocheted around the beer garden to the consternation of two families, and finished up in a planter. Laughter erupts.

At 6:30 p.m., an award ceremony is held in the Harmon Garden. At stake are team high score, individual high score, individual low score and lowest team score. The lowest team score winning twosome is a geriatric Okinawan janitor/ninja and a 15-year-old fatherless boy with paint on his white shirt. Harmon Brewing Co. co-owner Pat Nagle tells the boy to "wax on" as he hands them the free rounds at Chambers Bay prize. The beer garden erupts in laughter.

MINI U.S. OPEN PUTT PUTT TOURNAMENT, 4-6 p.m., 3:45 p.m. check in, award ceremony 6:30 p.m., Saturday, July 12, bring putter and ball, The Hub, 203 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma, $10, pre-registration required at The Hub or Harmon Tap Room, $2 pint all day, 253.683.4606

LINK: Mini U.S. Open Putt Putt Tournament Facebook

June 11, 2014 at 8:01am

The Aroma of Tacoma Homebrew Championship is on

Tacoma's first sanctioned homebrew competition i son. Photo courtesy of aromaoftacomahbc.com

The Harmon Brewing Co. and Mash Homebrew Supply are teaming up to host "Aroma of Tacoma," a home brewing competition where homebrewers will have until July 17 to brew a beer in 23 beer styles using handcrafted products, containing ingredients available to the general public and made using private equipment by hobbyist brewers.

The Aroma of Tacoma is a Beer Judge Certification Program sanctioned home brewing competition with Pro-Am selections. Saturday, July 19, judges will gather at the Harmon Hub in Tacoma's Stadium District and sample the "brew"-testant's beers in a morning and afternoon session. Medals will be awarded for all 23 BJCP beer styles as well as Best Of Show and Pro-Am selections at neighboring Harmon Tap Room July 26. The Best of Show winner will receive at $250 gift certificate to Mash Homebrew Supply. Not bad for a $7 entry fee.

Registration is now open with details at aromaoftacomahbc.com.

Filed under: New Beer Column, Contest, Tacoma,

April 19, 2010 at 2:53pm

Drinking and eating challenges in Tacoma

If you drink many pints of Guinness Doyle's will let everyone know.

The common definition of the word "sport" usually goes something like this: an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature.  This vague definition leaves a lot open for interpretation.

A buddy of mine asked me whether or not I thought competitive eating was a sport. I actually do. What's that you say? There's no physical activity in eating? Don't make me laugh! Have you ever seen a person sweat while holding four hot dogs in their mouth at once? Have you ever tried to drink 10 pints in one sitting to be the first to hit an award-winning mark? Have you ever tried to hold in vomit?

That's a whole lot of physical activity, to be sure.

Tacoma has several competitive eating and drinking competitions underway.  Here's a taste:


Filed under: New Beer Column, Contest, Tacoma,

About this blog

Served, a blog by the Weekly Volcano, is the region’s feedbag of fresh chow daily, local restaurant news, New Beer Column, bar and restaurant openings and closings, breaking culinary news and breaking culinary ground - all brought to the table with a dollop of Internet frivolity on top.

Recent Comments

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Ted Smith said:

Thank you for the list of restaurants to try out. I will have to try their Mac and Cheese....

about Tournament of Mac and Cheese: It's Cheesy 16 time!

tastymakan said:

I like your post on Bakery restaurants I like ...

about Mac and Cheese Madness: The Homestead Restaurant and Bakery

Angela Whitten said:

Any Spring beers? www.myharmonyphotography.com

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Web Developers Delhi said:

Amazing blog and very interesting stuff you got here! I definitely learned a lot from reading...

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