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April 22, 2008

Cooking with the Grill Sergeant

I often find myself comparing the Defense Department to a country. After all, it has its own rhythms, customs, flags, anthems, traditions, universities and on and on.  Indeed, if it were it would a nation, it would be the ninth richest in the world.

And what would a country be without its own channel, in this case the Pentagon Channel, which many cable stations carry. It broadcasts press conferences, congressional hearings, news from bases around the world, and my absolute favorite show, a cooking program called The Grill Sergeants

I discovered the show when I took my very first sick day from work a few weeks ago. Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was holding a press conference, and I was doing my best to watch and take notes, while battling a mean flu. I accidentally dozed off and probably would have slept the rest of the day had I not suddenly heard someone scream “Whoo Whee!” out of my television.  It was the Grill Sergeant, SFC Brad Turner, dropping chicken into cooking oil. 

As it turns out, “Whoo Whee” is the signature line of the show’s animated chef. Incidentally, the Whoo Whee is a product of the special seasonings of the day that makes for the “whoo, wee and wow.” SFC Turner, who is based out of Fort Lee, Va., is instantly endearing, as he guides neophyte chefs through the kitchen. The military references are peppered throughout, not just in the title. He talks to the food, like the vegetables that were trying to jump overboard in one episode. And when he put together a special mix in another show, he chanted, “Ambush on the Taste Buds!” Sometimes, SFC Turner says, battles break out in the pot.

He wears his sergeant insignia on his chef hat and a microphone in front of his mouth to talk to the viewers. He also has his live band play a tune that suits the food. That’s right. There is a live band, called what else, the Taste Buds, which plays jazz interspersed with military drum cadence.  The meals are presented on Pentagon-shaped plates at the beginning of the show.

Launched late last year, it’s become one of the most popular programs on the Pentagon Channel. The show titles include “Comfort Foods” and “Saving Private Dining.” He was a hit at the Pentagon when he came by recently to hold a special live cooking segment.

For me, the show was a delightful find, a welcome escape from the seriousness that defines military reporting.

I don’t feel any descriptions can do the Grill Sergeant true justice. So here is the show that introduced me to SFC Turner.  Enjoy.


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he is my uncle brad i love u uncle brad im tomonique jackson our last name is diffrent but were in the same family

Brad Turner

I read this article and just laughed. I really wish I could have spoken with the author directly, but I am humbled and tickeld at such kind words. Thanks! SFC Turner, Brad!

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"Nukes & Spooks" is written by McClatchy correspondents Jonathan S. Landay (national security and intelligence), Warren P. Strobel (foreign affairs and the State Department), and Nancy Youssef (Pentagon).

jon, nancy & warren

Landay, Youssef and Strobel.

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