Cooking

Lt. Col. Andrew Wilbraham, Headquarters Battalion commander, center, poses with chef Andrew Gruel and the BOSS teams after the Be Strong cooking competition.

Soldiers competed for top honors in a BE STRONG powered by Healthy Army Communities cooking competition, Saturday.

Nine Soldiers formed three teams and spent the previous day with Chef Andrew Gruel, owner of several restaurants in Virginia and D.C., who wanted them to understand that healthy, tasty dishes can be easy to make.

“It’s all about reducing fats in our food, and increasing flavor by adding fresh herbs and flavorful vinegars, and then knowing how to balance those flavors,” said Gruel.

After a day of shopping and planning, it was time for the nine Soldiers, all members of the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, to put into practice what they learned.

According to Sgt. Shilloy Stephens, BOSS president, each Soldier had to make their own dish using a style of cooking they were taught. The food had to be healthy and taste good.

The competition was sponsored by Healthy Army Communities, and Program Manager Tim Higdon said it’s all about changing culture and the environment.

“We wanted to show them the resources they have on every installation with the Commissary and the Exchange, where they have the tools to cook something nutritious, healthy, and doing it a lot cheaper than going through the drive-thru every day,” said Higdon.

Higdon said Belvoir’s commissary is working hard to make nutritious meals easier than ever.

“The Fort Belvoir Commissary uses the Nutrition Guide Program, a labeling system on the food shelves, marked with a green thumb. It identifies nutrition items, such as gluten-free, high-fiber and low-fat, so it does a lot of the work for you, and you don’t have to read the labels,” he said.

After an hour of cooking, it was time for judges to render their verdict. Staff Sgt. Paula Sanchez, Sgt. David Colonna and Pfc. Justin Peterson, BOSS Team 2, took top honors as they won bragging rights, gift cards and cooking gear from the Exchange.

“The skills that these nine Soldiers have learned in this competition are meant to be passed down to other Soldiers in the BOSS program throughout the year. So, it’s a great way for them to learn something together, and take with them wherever they go,” said Higdon.