“Even if you’ve been up all night cooking, when you finally throw the towel in at the end of the day, you look around and say, ‘wow, I did this.’ It’s the feeling that keeps me cooking, that makes me want to win,” said Staff Sgt. Jesus Lopez, a member of the Culinary Arts Team at Fort Bragg.

On Tuesday, Lopez and a dozen other members of the team showed off their culinary creations at the Fort Bragg Club during the 2014 Culinary Arts Display and Food Show.

Among the dishes featured were intricate chocolate butterflies and grand pianos, consume, profiteroles and tiny drumsticks. All were chosen as potential winners for the ultimate goal — the Installation of the Year Award at the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition, March 9 to 13, at Fort Lee, Va. The competition is considered the most prestigious military culinary event in North America. In its 39th year, the competition has updated the program to include the chef of the year award, one of many awards at the event including the nutritional hot food award, the knowledgeable skills competition, and junior chef of the year. Over the years, Fort Bragg has won the top prize more often than any other installation, holding seven Installation of the Year awards.

“Our display today (at the Fort Bragg Club) gives us a chance to run through the preparation before the actual competition. We’ve been up all night cooking,” said Lopez, motioning to the white clad tables with many tiered serving trays. “We want to make sure our dishes stand out from the others. Some of the points we focus on are the height, flow, color, and the level of difficulty. Judges also want to see how different an entree is, how original the ingredients and techniques are.”

The food show also gave choice vendors a chance to show food alongside the culinary arts team. This year, there were around 40 vendors from across the state participating in the food show, including Kraft, Pepsi and other well-known brands. The tables were laden with everything from blueberry protein shakes to hot pans of Indian curry. Soldiers could sample and rate foods at various tables, and the top rated foods were relayed to the substance supply office. The goal was to bring the most popular foods to dining facilities all over post.

“We are always pushing for new products and innovations,” said Bryan Nixon, the assistant Food Activity supervisor. “I want the opportunity to try what’s new and fresh in our dining facilities. Today’s event gave Soldiers a chance to tell us what they want to see on their menus here on post. It’s the perfect venue to give Soldiers and managers ideas about new products.” This year, there were a plethora of healthier foods with the recent focus on the Healthy Base Initiative. “We’re featuring products like Vitamin Water and low sodium, low fat entrees for our Soldiers to sample,” said Nixon. “They’ll find that healthy tastes great.”