Fairchild Airman Wins Achieving Culinary Excellence Challenge Including Internship With Local Chef

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Clare Werner
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing

Senior Airman Dean Tagalan, Senior Airman Robert Gates IV and Senior Airman Samson Oluyori, assigned to the 92nd Force Support Squadron, participated in the Achieving Culinary Excellence challenge at the Warrior Dining Facility at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Dec. 19, 2023.

The Airmen that participated in this edition of the ACE challenge were given one hour to cook a meal from a ‘mystery box’ containing a variety of secret ingredients which were then judged by leadership from the Force Support Squadron at Fairchild AFB, along with Chef Chad White, a veteran who began his career as Culinary Specialist in the U.S. Navy and is currently an Honorary Commander at Fairchild.

“I remember as a young culinarian how important it was to have a culinary professional to judge my work,” White explained. “It inspired me to always do bigger and better things.”

White, who competed in Season 13 of ‘Top Chef’ and opened three restaurants around the Spokane and Spokane Valley region, will be providing his culinary expertise to the ACE challenge winner through an internship where they can gain experience by operating in a professional kitchen.

“This will be an opportunity to stage with me for three days learning advanced techniques and skills, working on the line in a professional restaurant and connecting through mentorship to find out what their goals are,” White said.

The Airmen who competed in this challenge were each given a ‘mystery box’ with ingredients that included salmon, couscous, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, butternut squash, chorizo and espresso, as well as access to all other ingredients already in the kitchen.

“Using those unique secret ingredients was a fantastic challenge,” Gates explained. “I prepared teriyaki salmon with lemon couscous and butternut squash, along with a chorizo stew.”

After completing each of the dishes, the three contestants showcased their work in front of spectators and three judges. The judges tried each of the three dishes and rated them based on factors like creativity, plate presentation and flavor profiles and after deliberating on each meal, they declared Gates as the winner of this challenge.

“Winning the holiday ACE challenge was such a thrilling surprise,” Gates exclaimed. “The recognition for my dish made the win incredibly rewarding, especially with the tough competition I faced throughout the challenge.”