JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
In an event aimed at promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, more than 450 Security Forces technical training students had the opportunity to break bread with renowned celebrity chef Robert Irvine and his team at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland June 14 and 15.
Irvine and his corporate chefs not only served up a dinner for Defenders from the 343rd Training Squadron June 14, but they also attended the 331st Training Squadron Basic Military Training graduation parade and provided a cooking demonstration for a select number of Defenders at one of the installation’s dining facilities June 15.
“He [Irvine] is all about being able to teach people how to provide healthy alternatives,” said Brig. Gen. Russell Driggers, JBSA and 502nd Air Base Wing commander, during his opening remarks at Wednesday’s dinner. “We all know that the human body and human performance is based on the food that you put in your body and the better we can take care of ourselves, the better we can take care of our installations and our nation.”
Col. Lauren Courchaine, 37th Training Wing commander, emphasized the general’s comments and told the Defenders that, “we have to start thinking about how we take care of this body as a function of personal responsibility, as well as a readiness function, so that every single one of us can get the food we need … the sleep that we need … so we can maintain a focus on our mission and our family.”
Courchaine thanked Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Joanne Bass for inviting the chef to the wing.
“She [Bass] wants to make sure every single one of you has the skills, the knowledge and the education to be successful not only as Defenders, but as individuals,” Courchaine said of the CMSAF’s vision for members of the Air Force’s largest career field.
Known for his charismatic personality and dedication to promoting healthy eating habits, Chef Irvine wasted no time in getting down to business at the dinner. Within 30 minutes, he and 25 Airmen volunteers served up a specially curated menu of pulled pork, collard greens, smoked sausage and other options made up of fresh, unprocessed ingredients.
Once seated, the chef circulated among the Airmen, taking the time to personally interact with them and listen to their stories. He also addressed the group to remind them of the importance of physical fitness and overall well-being within the military with a friendly push-up competition.
The following day, the chef and his culinary team provided a hands-on cooking demonstration for additional Defender students who were unable to attend the previous night’s event.
The demo, hosted in the 502nd Force Support Squadron Mesquite Dining Facility, gave Airmen practical tips on how to stay healthy and fit using ingredients readily available in installation commissaries. The chef called on members of the audience to taste-test various spices and seasonings and educated them on how to quickly make a healthy meal.
Tech. Sgt. Denise Good and Staff Sgt. Selina Abril, both military training leaders with the 343rd TRS, were called up front to conduct their own cooking demo.
The two Airmen, whose primary career field is Services, were given a select number of ingredients and were given a few minutes to whip up a healthy meal in front of the audience of 50 students.
Good said it was a great, on-the-spot opportunity that helped them develop a different mindset that anyone can take simple ingredients from their pantry to easily make a healthy meal in minutes.
Irvine said that throughout training Airmen are taught lots of things and they have great mentors, but they need continuous education about what is good, bad and better when it comes to food.
“When you go to any Air Force base, you’re getting great food. We have room for improvement always, but at least we’ve got the basics; and the more we do this, the more change we can make to bring great, healthy food to our military,” he added. “We’ve got tanks and we’ve got planes, but they don’t work without folks like this, and we’ve got to take care of them.”
The two-day event was a collaboration between the 502nd FSS and 37th TRW mission partners and served as a reminder of the importance of physical fitness and overall well-being within the military. By combining his culinary expertise with his commitment to a healthy lifestyle, Chef Irvine left a lasting impact on the Airmen, motivating them to make better choices when it comes to nutrition and exercise.
The Robert Irvine Foundation has been hosting “Breaking Bread with Military Heroes” at military installations across the country. As of May 2023, the foundation had served more than 18,400 service members at 20 events.