A cook prepares a steamship round of beef for Thanksgiving 2020 at the Bamford Dining Facility on Fort Bliss, Texas, Nov. 24, 2020. The large round will cook for approximately 14 hours. (Photo by Michelle L. Gordon, USAG Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office)
Fort Bliss dining facility prepares to feed an Army on Thanksgiving
By Michelle L. Gordon, USAG Fort Bliss Public Affairs
Kitchens across America will be abuzz with activity Nov. 25, 2020, as turkeys are stuffed, vegetables are chopped, and casseroles are prepped, and the Bamford Dining Facility on Fort Bliss, Texas, is no different.
However, unlike most kitchens across the country, the DFAC plans to feed a Thanksgiving meal to about 600 people in-person, as well as another 500 takeout meals to those in quarantine, which is half of the normal participants in a non-COVID-19 year.
Due to limited seating and social distancing, this year the Bamford DFAC will only serve Soldiers, but the cooks hope to welcome civilians and families back next year.
Facility manager Olga Lopezdello said her team started planning the menu in September and although it includes traditional items, such as turkey and dressing, they like to switch it up a bit and try new recipes.
“Everything is made in-house and we make everything from scratch, including cutting all of the fruit for the fruit salad,” she said. “We have thousands of recipes to choose from and we try to tweak and do different things each year.”
She said they do take allergens into consideration though, so while you will not find pecans on top of the sweet potato casserole; you will find marshmallows. Lopezdello said they also serve glazed sweet potatoes for those who do not like the sweet confection on top.
For special meals like Thanksgiving, the dining facility has nine to 10 cooks preparing the meal, addition to the “first cook.”
“The first cook is in charge of the other cooks,” she said. “They check and monitor to ensure everything is cooking properly, and that everybody is following the recipes and cleaning as they go.”
The menu includes more than 700 pounds of turkey, as well as three other meats, two kinds of potatoes, green beans, corn on the cob, roasted brussel sprouts, macaroni and cheese, shrimp cocktail, broccoli and cheese soup, assorted rolls and breads, and six different desserts.
The Bamford DFAC will still serve three meals on Thanksgiving Day, starting with breakfast at 6 a.m. However, it will be continental, because they need the ovens and the time to get lunch ready.
Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., and like most American households, the Bamford DFAC will serve leftovers for dinner and they will be available from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Lopezdello has worked at the Bamford DFAC for eight years, where she started as a baker, and she enjoys providing hot meals for Soldiers. In fact, her face lights up when you ask her about it.
“I love to serve the Soldiers,” she said. “For me, it’s a thank you for what they do for all of us and for our country.”