Dishing up some great food

Dishing up some great food

If you've been on base around lunchtime and you are active duty or on the flight line, you know how long the fast food drive-thru lines can get. Instead of waiting for some "fast" food, head over to one of Hill's dining facilities for a fast, nutritious meal, dessert included.

Though a cafeteria might remind you of that mushy mystery meat that was served in high school, Hill's dining facilities work to incorporate nutrition and fun in their menus.

"We always try to give the Airmen what they want," Mike McCoy, Food Service chief, said.

Both of Hill's dining facilities, Hillcrest near the dorms and Fast Eddie's on the flight line, as well as Oasis at the test range, follow a 14-day rotating menu that is supplied by the Air Force. Each meal is labeled with a card that describes the nutritional value, including calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium.

"I think the dining facility is outstanding — I depend on it a lot," said Chief Master Sergeant Atticus Smith, a member of the 388th Fighter Wing. The facility offers a lot of nutritional choices, he added.

Though it may seem like a strict regimen, McCoy and the other dining facilities workers always find a way to incorporate some fun.

"We have ethnic meals once a week, including German, Italian, Mexican, and other foods," McCoy said. Two Thursdays out of each month also feature a Mongolian barbecue for dinner.

"Our main effort is to support the Airmen," McCoy added. "For instance, if they want a particular item, if we are authorized to have it then we can get it."

"It's a wide variety — there's always something good to eat," said Airman First Class Fernando Lozano, a member of the 729th Air Control Squadron.

The dining facilities also serve special meals for three holidays out of the year: Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Air Force's birthday. For Christmas and Thanksgiving, the dining hall features a buffet style meal that is served by the wing leadership, McCoy said.

On Sept. 18, retirees, dorm personnel and active duty military and their family are all welcome to enjoy cake at Hillcrest to celebrate the Air Force's birthday, McCoy said.

Birthdays also bring about a special meal as they are celebrated each quarter with steak, lobster and shrimp, not to mention the obligatory birthday cake. This quarter's birthday meal will fall on Sept. 23, and McCoy encourages all dorm personnel with a birthday this quarter to join in the feast.

Hillcrest alone serves around 11,000 people a month, though the number varies due to temporary duty assignments. . This costs the facility around $50,000 to $60,000 a month just for food, not to mention upkeep and maintenance, McCoy said.

Maintenance and food costs are what determine the prices of each item on the menu, McCoy added. Despite this, the facilities are encouraged not to make a profit and instead be within 3 percent of costs and sales, which is one of the reasons prices are so reasonable.

Costs also go toward keeping the facilities clean, and with 37 to 40 inspections conducted a month, it's obvious that clean facilities and good food are a No. 1 priority at Hill.

"When I do inspections, I look at sanitation, how the food is prepared, the inventory, customer service, and more," said Luz Castro, a quality assurance personnel member.

"We used to get monthly inspections, and then (Public Health) reduced it to quarterly," Castro said in regards to how clean the facilities are.

This year Hill's dining facilities are competing in the Gold Plate Evaluation, which is an annual award that judges dining facilities on items such as operation, meals, and customer service.

Hill won the award in 2006, and this year McCoy hopes to repeat the victory. "Our only competition for the Gold Plate Award is Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, McCoy said."

"If we win this award, we'll go on to compete against several other bases for the Hennessy Award, he continued.

Awards or not, Hill's dining facilities are going for the gold every day.

Hillcrest dining facility, located in Building 519, is open seven days a week and offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a midnight meal.

Airmen stationed in the dorms and those on temporary duty are allowed to dine at this facility, as well as the family members of those ranked E-1 through E-4 for one meal a day. Retirees are also invited to dine in on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Air Force's birthday.

Fast Eddie's, located on the flight line, is open Monday through Friday except for holidays. Due to its location on the flight line, access is restricted.

Oasis, located at the test range, is open Monday through Thursday, and is closed on holidays. Hours are extended when reservists are undergoing their Unit Training Authorization.

To find out what the daily menu is, please call (801) 777-4946.

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