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Celebrity chef visits Malmstrom, mentors Airmen

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --

Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine visited Malmstrom Air Force Base recently to work with missile field chefs on preparing quality meals at missile alert facilities and to judge a Warrior Chef competition.

Missile field chefs from Malmstrom, Minot AFB, North Dakota, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, came together to receive hands-on training and mentorship from Irvine and his Corporate Executive Chef Darryl Moiles during his trip here.

As part of the visit, Irvine toured the base, watched explosive ordnance disposal, tactical response force and military working dog demonstrations, and spent time with Airmen from different jobs while learning more about the mission here.

One of the stops was the 40th Helicopter Squadron where Irvine received a flight pre-brief before boarding onto a helicopter to fly out to a missile alert facility.

While in the air, pilots from the 40th HS explained their role in missile field security and showed the chef and his team some of the missile complex.

Once inside the MAF kitchen, 23 missile field chefs rotated in the kitchen to receive their first round of hands-on training, constructive criticism and helpful hints while Malmstrom chefs prepared lunch for everyone.

“(Chef Irvine) showed us that it doesn’t take a lot of time to take those few extra steps to make food go from mediocre to really outstanding,” said Senior Airman Jessica Rugg, 341st Force Support Squadron missile field chef.

The celebrity chef spent the next morning mentoring and talking to the Airmen about spices, texture, fruits and vinegar, which create flavor and helped them prepare for the upcoming challenge.

“Chef Irvine gave us all these great tips, pointers and critiques so we will share that training (with other missile field chefs) because we are a team and want everybody to become the best chef that they could be,” said Rugg.

Later, during the Warrior Chef opening ceremony, Chef Irvine announced last minute changes he made to the competition rules.

“They were expecting one plate between four people and I made them do one plate each, then I threw in a dessert and I took fifteen minutes off,” said Chef Robert Irvine.

Now with less prep and cooking time, the 12 competing Airmen had to figure out how to work around each other, while sharing the same space, ingredients and equipment.

“(The missile field chefs) are not used to thinking on the fly because they follow set recipes and menus and here we are throwing them a chicken breast and anything they could make with it,” said Irvine. “So that was a lot of stress and they all came out with flying colors, which is a testament to their training and problem solving thought process.”

Chef Irvine, Great Falls Mayor Bob Kelly, local restaurant owner Mark Grassechi, and one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, Senior Airman Kaitlyn Callahan, made up the panel of judges and together they determined the winners.

Before the winners were announced Irvine spoke to the chefs and everyone in attendance.

“I think it goes to show how creative you all are when given the opportunity and I know, having seen what you do, what a tough job you have,” said Irvine. “What I have seen in the past two days have totally blown my mind and I would hire any one of you in any one of my businesses.”

The winners of the Warrior Chef competition were: Senior Airman Jessica Rugg from the Malmstrom team, Senior Airmen Christian Acosta and Secilia Peraza tied for first place from the F.E. Warren team, and first place from Minot and overall winner was Airman 1st Class Joya Lindsey.

“These young men and women who wear the cloth of our nation are unsung heroes and we are humbled to be here and thank them for keeping America safe,” said Irvine.