About 30 Airmen enjoyed the aromas and tastes of a savory Tex-Mex chili, cornbread and brownies during a cooking demonstration in their dormitory sponsored by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe command chief’s office.
It wasn’t mama’s home cooking the unaccompanied Airmen smelled; the cooking was that of Master Sgt. James Fuller, the USAFE commander’s senior enlisted aide, who demonstrated how to cook different foods in a microwave oven.
Sergeant Fuller, whose job requires executive chef training, donated his free time and culinary expertise to teach basic microwave cooking techniques to dorm residents who have no kitchen facilities.
Chief Master Sgt. Pamela Derrow, USAFE command chief master sergeant, teamed up with Sergeant Fuller to put the demo together to give the Airmen an alternative for when the dining facility is closed.
“I have a lot of concern because a lot of our Airmen live in the dorms and some of them have cooking facilities and some of them don’t,” said Chief Derrow, who watched the demo with the Airmen.
All four dorms in use on Kapaun have kitchen facilities with a stove and oven, except for one that is home to the hardworking Airmen of the 569th U.S. Forces Police Squadron. Funding for a full-size community kitchen in the dorm is projected in the next fiscal year budget.
The dining facility on station serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but no midnight meal. Since the security forces Airmen work varying shifts and the dining facility is not always an option, they have to make do with a microwave or haul everything to another dormitory to prepare meals.
The expo gave them a lesson on how to take full advantage of their microwave, since each Airman has a microwave and refrigerator in their room.
“We don’t want them to think that they have to leave their home everyday to go eat,” Chief Derrow said. “We wanted to give them some options for making great healthy meals in the microwave.”
Sergeant Fuller not only prepared the chili in the microwave in approximately 30 minutes, but gave tips on microwave safety and food preparation.
“I learned that I can actually put meat in the microwave and cook it. That was one thing I was afraid of before,” said Airman 1st Class Marcia Montoya, who attended the demo. “The chili was delicious and better than Hot Pockets.”
Several of the Airmen who attended the expo gained some useful knowledge about microwave cooking.
“I realized that you can actually make really good quality meals in the microwave and not just Hungry-Man meals or TV dinners,” said Airman 1st Class Tramaine Jackson, a security forces professional.
Airman 1st Class Todd McCardel said he learned how to make a quality meal in the microwave in 15 minutes.
“I’ve cooked before and it was pretty messy. It seemed like it was pretty easy (for Sergeant Fuller). I’ll definitely come to more of these classes if they have them,” he said.
And Airman 1st Class Scott Schomaker agreed with Airman McCardel.
“Definitely put my name down for the next demo,” he said while helping Sergeant Fuller mix some of the chili ingredients.
Sergeant Fuller also gave the Airmen handouts for a “Community of Practice” Web page he’s setting up called “Culinary Cues” that will periodically provide microwave recipes, tips in the kitchen, references to culinary Web sites, forums to ask questions and course links to various sites.
“I hope most of all, today the Airmen take confidence back with them,” Sergeant Fuller said. “It’s not hard to cook in the microwave and it’s one thing they can utilize because that’s what they have available to them, since they may not have a stove to cook with. This keeps them from having to use frozen foods and Ramen noodles. They can go a little beyond that and try something different – something that’ll stick to their ribs.”
Sergeant Fuller and Chief Derrow said they plan to do more demos and maybe some microwave cook-off competitions for the dorm residents there in the future.