If you are what you eat, then diners at the 1/10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Dining Facility are the best in Europe.
The U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart DFAC on Panzer Kaserne took first place for small garrisons in the Installation Management Command and U.S. Army Europe 2010 Philip A. Connelly Awards Competition, part of the Army Food Service Program. The staff will go on to compete for the Department of the Army award in December.
The win is the third in a string of accolades for the DFAC’s food service in recent years: It also won second place in the Department of the Army level in 2008 and first in the IMCOM-E level in 2007.
All of this success comes from having supportive leadership and a motivated staff, according to Staff Sgt. Reece Zunino, DFAC assistant manager.
“It’s a good atmosphere,” said Zunino, who has worked at the DFAC for four years.
He added that staff members instill confidence in each other, encourage teamwork, and work long and continuous hours to get the job done.
The DFAC is operated mainly by Soldiers in the Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1/10th SFG(A), and HHC, 554th Military Police Company HHC.
For the competition, they were evaluated in categories including facility cleanliness, administrative organization, customer service, and food quality. The winning menu included stuffed trout, ratatouille and wild rice.
While the staff worked hard to impress the judges, both staff and customers say the food service quality is the same year-round.
“I have never missed an opportunity, when I’m on Panzer, to eat here,” said Angel Marte a retiree and patron of the DFAC for two years. He listed a few reasons why: “The quality of the food, the friendliness of the dining facility personnel … I hope they keep it up.”
Hyun Caban, a civilian and Army spouse, visits the DFAC two or three times each week because it offers cost-saving and healthier options to other dining choices on post.
She also feels appreciated as a customer. “I like how they actually ask us if we like it or not,” she said.
This kind of customer satisfaction is a reflection of the staff and facility management, according to DFAC Officer-in-Charge Capt. Garrett Slaughter.
“They’re self-improving and hard workers,” Slaughter said. “They have a sense of pride in serving the garrison community.”
Slaughter added that the DFAC manager, Sgt. 1st Class Javier Gonzalez, has also contributed to making the 1/10th SFG(A) Dining Facility a popular meal destination for the community. “He’s committed to excellence and [to] consistently improving the facilities we have.”
Gonzalez has participated in the Connelly competition as a part of other units; however, this was his first year competing as a manager.
To be ready for competitions like Connelly, Gonzalez keeps the cooks’ skills as sharp as their knives by allowing them to get creative in the kitchen.
“We’re always adding something … trying something different,” said Gonzalez, who joined the staff in June 2009. “I always give the Soldiers the opportunity to experiment.”
Mainly, Gonzalez added, he wants staff members to feel that they’re part of the dining facility community and be able to realize their goals — whether it’s winning the next food service competition or making customers happy with a batch of French pastries.
“We’re family,” he said. “We really take care of each other … . We empower our own Soldiers, regardless of rank.”
The Philip A. Connelly Awards Program is co-sponsored by the International Food Service Executives Association and the Department of the Army.