‘El Paso Strong’ inspired menu earns Fort Bliss culinary team national accolades


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A Borderland-inspired menu won Fort Bliss’ best culinary specialists several awards at the Joint Culinary Training Excercise in March.

The event is the largest military competition in North America sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation. The team said they drew inspiration from the El Paso and Juarez communities after the August 3 tragedy. The cross-border culinary connections that bound our communities together were what influenced Fort Bliss’ team.

“We wanted to pay tribute to the Borderlands on both sides of the border,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Fabian Murillo, a Los Angeles, California native and Certified Executive Chef assigned to the 153rd Quartermaster Field Feeding Company, 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade to DIVIDs.

Photo By Jean Han | FORT BLISS, Texas – The Fort Bliss and 1st Armored Division Culinary Team, otherwise known as Team Tribute, stack their hands together in a show of solidarity at the Culinary Training Lab on Feb. 4. The culinary specialists competed at the 45th Annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise (JCTE) which took place from Mar. 4 – 13 at Fort Lee, Virginia. The JCTE is administered by the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence (JCCoE) and is the largest military cooking competition in North America sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation (ACF). (U.S. Army photo by Jean S. Han)

The first thing we thought of was El Paso Strong because we were inspired by the way we all came together. Some of us had family, team members and friends that were impacted so it’s still fresh in our minds.”

The Fort Bliss team, also known as Team Tribute, faced off against more than 200 military chefs from all branches of service across the globe, including the Armed Forces of France, Canada, Germany, and the British Army.

The buffet challenge’s pièce de résistance was a 150-pound chocolate tallow sculpture modeled after the Fray Garcia Monument in Downtown El Paso. It was designed by Mark Pulido, a native of Dededo, Guam.

“I wanted to keep in line with the Borderland theme, and I thought the bronze sculpture of Fray Garcia would be the perfect inspiration,” said Pulido.

Collectively, the team took home silver medals in two of the biggest professional categories, Military Hot Food Kitchen and Nutritional Hot Food. They also earned a bronze medal in the Team Buffet professional category.

While not competing, the team uses their exceptional culinary skills to ensure readiness in Fort Bliss dining facilities and support soldiers in garrison and on the field.

Members of the team include Sgt. 1st Class Fabian Murillo, a Los Angeles native, Spc. Shamika Wright, a native of Fayetteville, NC, Spc. Melissa Torres of Chicago, and Capt. Jessie Richards, Chief of Clinical Dietetics at WBAMC. The professional buffet team included Sgt. Pulido, and Sgt. Lourdes Malone of New York.

Malone received a commendation medal for Armed Forces Pastry Chef of the Year and Spc. Ivan Goana, of San Antonio, received a commendation medal for Armed Forces Student Chef of the Year.

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