USO Military Chef Cook-off - Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle

USO Military Chef Cook-off

Through USO-Metro’s partnership with Giant, the Military Chef Cook-Off has become a BBQ Battle staple, and this year is no different. USO-Metro is pleased to welcome U.S. Army Combat Veteran and Celebrity Chef Andre Rush as our host of the 2020 Military Chef Cook-Off as part of the Giant® National Capital BBQ Battle Virtual Experience, running through the whole month of June. The Military Chef Cook-Off has representatives from each branch of service facing off to determine who can prepare the best rack of BBQ ribs, and the winner will be determined by, YOU, the fans! Read about each one of our chefs below and check out their pictures and recipes, then cast your vote for your favorite. This year’s winner will be announced July 1, 2020!


This Year’s Winners of the 2020 USO Military Chef Cook-Off

First Place: CSC Scott Jeffries (Coast Guard)
Second Place: MSgt Brian Hall (Air Force)
Third Place: SSG John L. Densham (Army)

SSG John L. Densham

SSG John L. Densham, US Army, began his career in food at the age of 13 at the Allenberry Inn in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, when, from the dish pit he watched the grill cooks create culinary magic with fire. From that point on, he knew he had to join their ranks. After graduating high school, he attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York where he earned his Bachelor’s in Culinary Arts Management. He’s worked in acclaimed restaurants like Roy’s Hawaii Kai and Philadelphia’s Talula’s Garden and in March of 2013, he joined the United States Army as a proud 92G- Culinary Specialist. His first duty station was Fort Sill, Oklahoma where, competing with the Fort Sill Culinary Arts team, he received his first taste of what military chefs could do with fire. Surrounded by amazing leaders who pushed him to succeed, he was selected to serve at the SecDef’s Executive Mess which brought him to the National Capital Region where he is now serving as an Enlisted Aide. SSG Densham reads cookbooks like novels and studies the work of people like Edna Lewis, Ed Mitchell and Sean Brock in dogged pursuit of those fickle mistresses that are smoke and flavor. Growing up in Pennsylvania, he didn’t experience good barbecue until he met his wife whose Texan family takes their smoked meats very seriously. His barbecue conversion happened in McKinney Texas at Hutchin’s Barbecue and from the moment that piece of heaven-sent brisket was set in front of him, his life has never been the same. He has won numerous accolades for his excellent cooking, but nothing has meant more to him than to have his children clamor for his barbecue. In the words of his 5-year-old son, “My dad makes better barbecue than grandma!” Those might be fighting words in his extended family, but you can be the judge of that in the USO’s Barbecue Battle.

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CS1 Michael Groth

I am currently serving in the US Navy for a little over 11 years. Enlisted in December of 2008. I am originally from a small little town in Michigan called Snover. I have a wife and two kids. How did I become interested in cooking: Well it all started back in high school, I always liked to cook and bake at home but never really looked at it as being a career but what I really wanted to do something with art. I would take art class every time I had the chance. It wasn’t until my mother said why don’t you go and try out the culinary arts class at the Vo-tech school. So I decided to give it a try it found out that I really liked doing it and it also happened to be an art form as well. After graduating high school I enrolled at Johnson and Wales University and pursued my new found passion for cooking by receiving an AS in Culinary Arts, AS in Baking and Pastry arts, and a BS in Food Service Management. Right now I am currently working on my Master’s Degree in Public health and Nutrition. As for my passion for cooking I am always trying out new things weather it is just getting down new cultural dishes or just techniques. As of right now I am currently experimenting with making Vegan meat analogues. What is this you’re asking yourself well it is a plant based meat alternative that looks and tastes almost like the real thing? I took it as a challenge to make a Vegan “Rib” and to also make it along with the ribs that I was making for the BBQ Battle. I wanted to submit it along with my Pork ribs. So I am submitting Ribs two ways the first one is my Baby Back ribs and the second one are my Seitan Ribs. I did this so anyone that might not eat pork or any one that is plant based could still enjoy having ribs as well and not be left out of all the fun.

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Master Gunnery Sergeant Jeremiah Burns

Master Gunnery Sergeant, Jeremiah Burns, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on June 28, 1952. He started his BBQ career in 1966 at the age of 14 while growing up in Kansas City, taking a break in 1972 to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. MGySgt Burns continued his career in food service throughout his time in the Corps, and in February 2000, he received the Military Culinary Ney Hill Award for the Best Field Mess with the 4th Marine Division. MGySgt Burns retired from the Marine Corps in February 2002, but his passion for the service and BBQ continued on, leading him to compete in the Military Chef Cook-Off at the Giant National Capital BBQ Battle. The three-time Military Chef Cook-Off champion has won in 2016, 2018 and 2019.

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MSgt Brian Hall

Hey y’all, my name is MSgt Brian Hall. My family and I are stationed at Randolph AFB in San Antonio, Texas. I have a Southern California soul and a Big Texas heart! Family, friends, and food is what I love! I’ve been blessed to have been married to my wife (my rock), Marianne, for 14 years. We share the joy of raising our three kids; Caleb, Milani and AddiLynn. I have been in the Air Force for 23 years, which is 19 years more than I had ever imagined. With that being said, food and cooking have been a part of my life, long before joining the military. As a child, I remember growing up having block parties every weekend with my family, the music playing, food cooking, and memories being made. I frequently remember my grandparents’ annual Oktoberfest celebration, where my Uncle Jeff taught me how to pour beer from a tap when I was eight years old and I made almost $40 in tips that night, lol! My life has always been about togetherness! Whether it was grilling steaks on the balcony in -10 degree weather while stationed in Alaska or late night BBQ’s after getting off work, while stationed in DC; there has always been food to share with friends and family. The food has always been the source of good times and memories.

Good food lets you see into one’s soul and I have always shared that philosophy with my kids. My connection to food and memories together is evident in my continued service to the USAF and has been passed on to my children. Our family loves getting in the kitchen; cutting, prepping, learning, cooking, and most importantly, having fun. Every weekend in our house, you will find us in the kitchen, making memories and incredible food. The most important lesson I have taught my children in the kitchen, is that food brings family and friends together for good times, great laughs, and unforgettable memories.
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CSC Scott Jeffries

Originally from Hollywood Florida, CSC Jeffries joined the United States Coast Guard in 2010 after nearly 10 years in the restaurant industry as a civilian. At age 14, CS1 Jeffries found himself bussing tables at a local café but soon developed an interest in the kitchen side of the business.  Over the years he worked in several restaurants gathering a wealth of knowledge in both front of the house and back of the house operations which has helped him to become proficient. Having found his passion for BBQ while stationed in Owensboro KY, CSC Scott Jeffries has been competing in BBQ Competitions since 2014. His BBQ Team, Pork N’ Pigs BBQ Fusion, has traveled all over the country competing in both KCBS Pro and Backyard level events. Last year he and his wife decided it was time for more than just the judges to taste their award winning BBQ. They opened up a small batch BBQ pop-up under the same name and can be found offering up their unique BBQ Fusion sandwiches at local breweries and festivals on select weekends throughout the year.

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