The National Restaurant Associatio Military Foundation (NRAMF) recently hosted 25 outstanding servicemen and women from Air Force and Marine Corps foodservice operations at the Culinary Institute of America-Greystone in Santa Helena, California. 

The week-long educational program aimed to develop their culinary skills. The Armed Forces Forum for Culinary Excellence, held last month, concluded with an awards dinner at Trinchero Napa Valley winery, hosted by Trinchero Family Estates, a sponsor of the event.

"The Armed Forces Forum for Culinary Excellence highlighted the importance of the restaurant industry's support of military personnel," says NRA chair Roz Mallet. "Events like this allow us to personally engage with those who are serving our country and provide direct mentoring and education for servicemen and women who wish to hone their culinary and foodservice-managment skills to get a head start on future careers in the restaurant industry."

The servicemen and women participated in interactive seminars, hands-on cooking activities, and mentoring and career-coaching sessions. The students also received guidance and feedback from CIA instructors, the event's CEO panel, and members of the NRAMF, including restaurateurs, suppliers, and other industry leaders.

The NRA is a strong supporter of the military and works to build career opportunities for military personnel and veterans. Those efforts include the NRA's long-time involvement with the Air Force's John L. Hennessy Award, the Marine Corps' Major Gen. W.P.T. Hill Award, and the Air National Guard's Sgt. Kenneth Disney Award programs.

More than 250,000 military veterans are employed in the restaurant industry. In the next five years, the NRA projects the number of additional employment opportunities to increase by 25,000.

The CEO panel for The Armed Forces Forum for Culinary Excellence included Marshall L. "Ken" Conrad, chairman of Libby Hill Seafood Restaurants; Steve Geske, senior vice president of strategic initiatives and mergers & acquisitions at Ventura Foods; Michael Gibbons, president and CEO of Mainstreet Ventures; Philip J. Hickey, Jr., CEO of Jocks II; Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services for the U.S. Air Force; Major James General Kessler, commander of Marine Corps Installations and command/assistant deputy commandant for installations and logistics; Patrick Liebler, vice president of priority accounts for ARAMARK Business Dining; Rosalyn "Roz" Mallet, chair of the board of directors for the NRA and CEO of PhaseNext Hospitality; and Arthur J. Myers, executive director of international military, community executives association office of the Under Secretary of Defense.