A romantic meal at a restaurant can cost big bucks. The average person was prepared to spend about $147 for Valentine’s Day dinner, according to a recent Zagat survey. But if you had elected to celebrate at the 1-10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Dining Facility on Panzer Kaserne, the bill for a restaurant-quality meal for two was under $10 … and no tip was required.
The Army’s top military DFAC (having won the 2012 Philip A. Connelly Awards Competition in December) invited couples to an intimate Valentine’s Day lunch on Feb. 14.
The four-course menu, served in the VIP dining room, included a spring garden salad with raspberry vinaigrette starter, followed by beef and barley, or broccoli and cheese, soup.
The entrées included a choice of horseradish encrusted beef tenderloin accompanied by broiled vegetables and red potatoes, or a spinach-stuffed chicken breast with sautéed asparagus and wild rice pilaf.
Dessert was a cheese flan with a mixed-berry reduction.
While the DFAC was prepared to serve up to 50 couples, only 12 took advantage of the “elevated” dining experience: tables for two, candles, stemware and for some, wine. Capt. Dan Miller, the information operations officer for 1-10th SFG (A), and wife Megan were happy to celebrate the holiday in each other’s company.
After three years of dating and five years of marriage, Megan Miller said they had been together for half of the Valentine’s Days over the eight-year period.
And they are about to be separated again. “It’s our last week together before I go off to attend a three-month course,” Dan Miller said. But the Millers and the other 11 couples weren’t the only customers to enjoy the special menu.
Approximately 138 patrons went through the cafeteria-style serving line for the same food, minus the fancy presentation. The spinach-stuffed chicken was delicious, according to Staff Sgt. David Ray, 554th Military Police Company.
“I finished it all off, he said, as he pointed to an empty plate
His dining companion, Pvt. Jameelah Robinson, another MP, had the beef tenderloin. “It’s the best I’ve ever had,” she said. She also had high praise for the DFAC’s corn bread. “It reminds me of home; it makes me really happy.”
According to Robinson, she usually eats at the Exchange food court on Panzer, but went to the DFAC on Valentine’s Day on the recommendation of a friend.
“One of our privates is a cook here. He said ‘hey, come try the flan.’ I did, and I am happy that I did. It was awesome,” Robinson said.
The meal was a labor of love for four Soldiers in the kitchen.
Cooks Staff Sgt. Javier Rodriquez, Sgt. Clint Youts and Sgt. Tederail Walker, along with Dining Facility Manager Staff Sgt. Derek Maak, all assigned to Headquarters Support Company, 1-10th SFG, took full control of the event, from menu planning, to table settings, publicity and meal preparation. Rodriquez, Youts and Walker are graduates of the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence’s Advanced Culinary Skills Training Course.
The five-week course focuses on knife skills, advanced gourmet food preparation and production, menu development, presentation and table service … or “five-star quality dining,” according to Youts.
Since graduation last summer, the Soldiers have wanted to flex their advanced culinary muscles to produce special occasion meals above the “typical DFAC experience.”
Valentine’s Day was the first opportunity.
After the service, Sgt. 1st Class Javier Gonzalez, the DFAC’s food operations management noncommissioned officer, heaped praise upon his Soldiers.
Gonzalez said he saw his cooks turn into fine cuisine chefs right in front of his eyes. “The preparation was meticulous and well-balanced — don’t forget we had 138 other customers. On a scale of one to 10 … my guys got a 10,” he said.
“I can see this happening again for Mother’s Day,” he added.