Hot off the grill: Sembach serves up tasty food

Story and photo by Mindy Campbell
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

During the lunchtime hustle, two cooks acted out a culinary choreography of sorts. As one slid up to a sizzling grill, the other dropped fries into bubbling oil and set lettuce and tomatoes on waiting buns.

Tony Burks and Eric Shepherd, cooks at the Sembach Bowling Alley, don’t consider themselves to be chefs. But, they will argue that they grill some of the best burgers in U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern.

Sembach Kaserne, previously a U.S. Air Force base, became an Army post in 2010. Since then, garrison leaders work to improve Soldiers’ quality of life. Better food for Soldiers and family members is part of that effort.

That’s how Burks and Shepherd recently found themselves at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus, taking a one-week course on quick food service.
“I never claim to be a chef, but my skills have greatly increased,” said Burks, who’s worked at Sembach since 2005.

Last year, the Army began a chef development program to improve food quality at Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation eateries. Training included classroom and hands-on experience.

While Burks was at first unsure of the Army’s reasoning — sending short order cooks to a stateside culinary school — he found the class intense and rewarding, he said.

“After going to the school and coming back, I think it has helped both of us a lot to make it easier here and to give better quality service to our customers and a more tasty product,” Burks said.

Beforehand, Shepherd was not enthusiastic about cooking, he said. Now, he thinks differently.

“It was intense at times, but it was a great great learning experience,” Shepherd said. “Now, I am not a chef. But, I love to cook and I am a good cook.”

The men came back with great new skills, said Leo Kosley, the bowling alley manager.

“I see a marked difference from before they went,” said Kosley, who noted the training increased speed and improved food preparation.

During a recent community radio broadcast, Lt. Col. Lars Zetterstrom, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, announced that Sembach’s bowling alley will also start offering new menu items on Monday.

“They will have daily specials that will have low cost and healthy meals options,” Zetterstrom said.

As Sembach doesn’t have a dining facility, many Soldiers, like Spc. Marcus Burks, of the 230th Military Police Company, often eat meals at the bowling alley.

“I pretty much have eaten everything on the menu,” Burks said. “My favorite is the biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Then, the burger and fries will get you through the rest of the day. I love it.”

Brian Davis, whose wife works at the 212th Combat Support Hospital on Miesau, also eats at the bowling alley regularly.

“It has a great atmosphere here,” Davis said. “They also have a great variety on their menu. I can’t believe more people don’t utilize it here.”

Lt. Col. Jeffrey J. Giannola, the 18th Military Police Brigade chaplain, also enjoys the service at the bowling alley. He thinks the cooks make all the difference.

“They are very good cooks and they are nice people and that’s important,” Giannola said. “It means a lot.”