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NEWS | March 8, 2016

Three is the magic number for US Army Reserve culinary specialist

By Timothy Hale U.S. Army Reserve Command

FORT LEE, Va. – Three was the magic number for Pfc. Tyquanda Dennis, a culinary specialist with the 275th Quartermaster Company, based at Fort Pickett, Virginia.

Dennis, who lives in nearby Henrico County, Virginia, has only been a member of the U.S. Army Reserve Culinary Arts Team for three days.

Competing in the Armed Forces Junior Chef of the Year category at the 41st Annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event, Dennis scored a bronze medal with a chocolate lava cake, mixed berries in red wine, and a butterfly tuile (baked wafer) delicately placed in orange mascarpone.

She practiced by making the dessert three times.

Three days on the team, three practice rounds, and a third place finish - three really was a magic number for Dennis.

“I got a phone call report to Fort Lee for training. So I reported on Thursday,” Dennis said. “It makes me feel good to have placed with a medal.”

Dennis, who is a student East Coast Polytechnic Institute and cooks in the cafeteria at a corporate complex in Glen Allen, Virginia, said competing on short notice didn’t come without challenges.

“My mind would just go blank. And at the end, I was trying to get my coulis [strained berries] on the plate and it was just going everywhere,” she said with a laugh.

But competing at this level has given her newfound confidence and she said she encourages other young Soldiers like her to compete.

“Go into it with a focused-mind but not so much that you’re stressing yourself out,” Dennis said. “Have fun while you’re doing it and get as much practice as you can before going in so that you’ll already have it in your head on what you have to do.”

But Dennis was not alone in her preparation for the competition. Staff Sgt. Aqueelah James, who has been on the U.S. Army Reserve Culinary team since 2011, was there to coach and guide Dennis in her short three days with the team.

“She helped me a lot. I went in knowing nothing,” Dennis said. “She did my first run-through with me and showed me exactly what to do. It was a big help.”

Dennis said practicing three times was an advantage when it actually came time to compete.

“When I went in I didn’t even need my recipe, I knew my steps,” Dennis said.

James, who is with the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support), Fort Gillem, Georgia, said that Dennis had a good attitude and work ethic.

“As long as you have hard work, integrity, and passion, you will succeed,” James said. “If you learn to love the art and learn to understand it’s not just cooking but it is also about personal and professional growth, you will do very well in our field.”

Dennis’ short-notice performance proved that hard work definitely pays off even if she had three days to prepare.