In his first time as a chef preparing meals for a group, Alton Greene wanted to make a big splash. Stationed in Hamburg, Germany, at the time, he indeed made an impression after he filled a 30-gallon fish tank with Jell-O and fish made out of fruit. But, it wasn’t the impression he hoped for.
“I walked in the door and people were like, ‘What in the world is this dude doing?’” Greene recalled.
Greene was so excited about the opportunity, that he failed to read the instructions that called for a scaled-down version of what he presented. As tough as it was, he learned his lesson about portion control and the importance of paying closer attention to details.
“I flopped my first time, but I had a great mentor and he kept pushing me,” Greene said.
Greene retired from the Army in 2007 after 24 years, but he remains involved with the military as a chef at Fort Belvoir’s Child Development Centers, where he started in 2015. People recognize the special touches he adds to each of his meals.
“There’s authenticity,” Greene said. “I want to make it my own.”
Besides cooking meals on base, he also does demonstrations online that appear on Belvoir’s Facebook page. It’s another way for him to share his talents, while doing something he loves. Greene started off in the Army as a cook, but became a chef after seeing other chefs at shows.
“I saw the response by the people going to those shows,” Greene said. “It’s hard to explain, but people were overjoyed when you talked to them about what you produced. It makes me hungry to do more.”
Greene said he doesn’t have a favorite meal. He likes to create.
“I’ve been all over the world and been fortunate to see so many different chefs,” Greene said. “I take from them and make it my own.”
Greene said his toughest critic is his youngest daughter, Malise.
“She’s always the test subject,” Greene said. “She will tell me, ‘Let’s start over or let’s keep that recipe.’”
Greene takes the suggestions to heart, knowing they only make him better.
“If you can’t, then you should go out and start playing checkers,” Greene said.