L’Auberge Casino Resort’s partnership with the U.S. Army’s Fort Polk, La., installation trains the military culinary team for the American Culinary Federation-sanctioned Military Culinary Arts Competition.
Each year in March, military installations across the country participate in the American Culinary Federation-sanctioned Military Culinary Arts Competition in Fort Lee, Va. Since 2012, the culinary team from the U.S. Army’s Fort Polk, La., installation has prepared for the event by training with chefs at the nearby L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles, La.
The ten soldiers on “Team Polk” received six weeks of training in hands-on culinary knowledge and skills from the professionals in the resort’s restaurant kitchens, in preparation for this year’s March 1-13 event.
With the help of the L’Auberge chefs, the soldiers learned everything from classic knife-cutting skills to plating design, in addition to instruction on how to provide a boldly flavored ribeye steak cooked to order, or prepare thinly sliced octopus drizzled with lemongrass oil and topped with caviar.
“The skill level of the Fort Polk team varies greatly, so we individualize the training plan based on their aptitude,” says L’Auberge Executive Chef Joe Mulligan. “We cover a lot of the basics such as knife skills, butchery, vegetable preparation, stocks and soups, all the way up to advanced cooking techniques, which include molecular gastronomy and advanced, cutting-edge plate presentations.”
While the immediate benefits for Team Polk are apparent, Mulligan says the resort’s culinary team benefits as well, knowing that their efforts can pay off after their service is over.
“A majority of the young soldiers who join the armed forces come from poorer families who cannot afford to send their children to very expensive culinary schools,” Mulligan says. “By investing in these passionate culinary students, we can give them career opportunities when they complete their tour, and hopefully some of them will become future team members at one of the many properties [owned by] Pinnacle Entertainment [which operates L’Auberge Casino Resort].”
The partnership has even yielded a few awards, Mulligan says. During the 2013-2014 event, Team Polk won 19 medals in various competition categories. In fact, the resort and Team Polk are considering expanding their relationship, to create a year-long Culinary Apprenticeship with some of the most talented culinarians in the military.
“We are proud to give something back to our service men and women who risk their lives to protect America,” Mulligan says. “This act on our part creates goodwill throughout the community, which in turn builds stronger community relations.”