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Face of Defense: NCO Teaches Bistro Cooking in Barracks

By Minnie Jones
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2009 – When it comes to cooking, Army Sgt. Edmund Perez knows how to prepare a healthy, affordable meal in about 30 minutes.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. Edmund Perez, an operations noncommissioned officer at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and a professional chef, brings his cooking talents to The Pentagon Channel in a cooking series called, “Microwave 101.” Courtesy photo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Perez, a native of San Antonio, is assigned to Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison here, as the operations noncommissioned officer. And as a professional chef, he brings his cooking talents to a new TV cooking series, “Microwave 101,” on The Pentagon Channel.

The show teaches soldiers how to save money and eat healthy, even when that means using a microwave in their barracks to cook meals.

Drawing from his own soldier experiences, Perez creates meals that are good, healthy, affordable and, his fans say, are unbelievably mouth-watering, considering they come from a microwave.

Equally important in his show, Perez tries to get young soldiers to save money. “I want soldiers to quit going to the Macaroni Grill to eat and invest in a [bank account] instead,” he said.

Perez’s cooking segments range from the quick and easy, like his two-minute breakfast taco, to complete meals like meatballs in sweet chili sauce, chicken with pineapple salsa, and chicken parmesan with glazed carrots and rice. Most of his meals include desserts, such as his molten chocolate cake.

Perez’s passion for cooking came at an early age, and he credits his mother for sparking his interest. “I think growing up and watching my mom decorate cakes and staying up late with her to help, intrigued me,” he said. “It set a challenge in front of me, the need to be challenged.

“Every time you cook, bake or decorate, it's different. You can be making the same dish repeatedly and it will still be different every time. I think that's why I like cooking. It's a new experience every time.”

Perez’s passion is molding cooks into chefs and preparing them for competition. He has competed in the All-Army Culinary Arts Team in 2005, 2007 and 2008; the competition only has seven slots a year, earning him the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team badge that he wears proudly.

“I love to train soldiers to compete and becoming skilled chefs,” he said. “I like changing their thinking process of being just a cook, to begin taking pride in what they do and transforming them into loving what they do.”

Throughout his career, Perez has helped 28 soldiers become certified chefs or higher through the American Culinary Federation. Four work at the Pentagon in various messes and one works for the Army chief of staff as his personal aide.

“There is nothing more rewarding than having a soldier, no matter the rank, come up to you and tell you, 'I have learned something from you,'” he said.

Perez also is popular with those he trains. “He is very thorough,” Army Spc. Mary McKoy, Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison, said. “Instead of throwing something at you and telling you to execute, he actually shows you what to do, and how to do it.”

When Perez is not taking care of daily business at the garrison, you can find him with the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, where he serves as the president and program manager for the installation.

Perez, due to a compassionate move, no longer actively works in his military occupational specialty. He has begun to channel some of his motivation of molding cooks into chefs into molding Advanced Individual Training and Initial Entry Training trainees in the BOSS program, into more responsible soldiers.

“I try to have a high standard in everything I do,” he said. “And I hold my soldiers to that same standard. Some of them hate it along the way, but in the end, they respect it, understand it and will use it in their own leadership style.”

(Minnie Jones works in the Fort Sam Houston public affairs office.)

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