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Face of Defense: Army Chef Spices Up Pentagon Channel

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2007 – Army Sgt. 1st Class Brad Turner today served hungry Pentagon Channel audiences a new recipe for entertainment during a half-hour cooking show called “The Grill Sergeants.” (Video)

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. 1st Class Brad Turner, host of The Pentagon Channel's "The Grill Sergeants," serves a gumbo medley with Linda Doditch, the show's producer, to hungry staffers at the Pentagon, ahead of the program's Dec. 10, 2007, debut. Photo by John J. Kruzel
  

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

“I love cooking gumbo,” Turner said while taking a break from serving cups filled with sausage, seafood and chicken gumbo to hungry workers in a Pentagon hallway. “It is probably the easiest dish to feed a mass of people, and it’s filling, it’s wonderful, and whomever I’m cooking for, I can always adapt it to them.”

Turner is stationed at Fort Lee, Va., and was one of several military “Grill Sergeants” chosen to host the program, which airs Mondays at noon Eastern Time and also will be available on the Pentagon Channel’s Web site, www.pentagonchannel.mil.

The chef, a charismatic showman with nearly 17 years of military experience, said “The Grill Sergeants” differs from other cooking shows in that it caters to a servicemember audience, with much of the dialogue peppered with military overtones.

In his favorite episode, titled “Saving Private Dining,” Turner serenades The Taste Buds’ bassist and his wife as they share a romantic fare that includes shrimp scampi and bananas foster cheesecake, which Turner had just cooked. “They just sat and eyeballed each other and took some time to be together,” the chef said. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Turner’s palette is borne of a New Orleans passion for food and, like many natives of the Big Easy, doesn’t eat to live; he lives to eat. The chef said his favorite part of cooking is the unity that emerges through preparing meals.

“I give (the audience) the ability to share themselves with other people,” the host said. “If you bake cookies with your kids, if you take time to cook with your spouse, if you take time to do that, that kind of gesture is irreplaceable.”

Turner hopes “The Grill Sergeants” will encourage families, especially military families distanced by deployments and busy work schedules, to relish moments in the kitchen together, preparing dishes in easy steps outlined in the follow-along cooking show.

“You gotta eat three times a day,” he said. “When your stomach says you’re hungry, why take some time to think, ‘Who have I not spoken to today?’ That’s three times a day that you can show love.” 

Each episode of “The Grill Sergeants” will teach audience members how to prepare a single food theme -- cakes, pies or turkey entrées, for example -- while the in-house Army jazz quartet “The Taste Buds,” who also act as official taste testers, play the show’s score. To pique the appetites of Defense Department staffers ahead of the program’s noon debut, the program’s host and producer served the chef’s signature Louisiana-style gumbo in the Pentagon concourse.

Linda Doditch, producer of “The Grill Sergeants,” said the program was conceived as a way to expand the Pentagon Channel’s offering of “lifestyle” programming. “It focuses on healthy eating, nutrition and food safety tips,” she said. “And, of course, we’re incorporating a lot of fun and good recipes and down-home cooking that anybody can make.”

Doditch noted that recipes appearing on the show will be available on the program’s Web site. One of the satisfied Pentagon staffers who enjoyed the gumbo medley said she plans to download the recipe and prepare it for her family.

“The gumbo is delicious; I want seconds,” Defense Department employee Joanne Johnson said. “I certainly am going to try making this.”

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