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WTB celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with salsa competition

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He may always make it different, but he always makes it right.

Spc. Timothy Stewart, winner of the Warrior Transition Battalion's 2nd Annual Salsa competition, crafted his original spicy salsa recipe for the first time the morning of the Sept. 29 contest.

Going with what he knew he didn't like, Stewart and fellow Alpha Company WTB Soldiers Spc. Jacob Laizure and Spc. Nick Lord put together a winning entry for the event, which was sponsored by the Soldier and Family Assistance Center and held adjacent to the SFAC parking lot on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"It's knowing how much to put in, and when to put it in," said Stewart, who noted that he never writes down his recipes. "I always make it different," he said, "but I always make it right."

Six teams submitted an original salsa recipe for consideration, including Soldiers and cadre from the WTB along with Soldiers' Angels volunteer Erin Sitterly, who used her husband's Argentinean grandmother's original recipe. Her table won for "best display."

Sgt. Shannon Bussey, a squad leader from Alpha Company, came out to support the WTB and sample the fare. All of the salsa submissions were good, he said. "When you get good people and a good competition," he noted, "you will get good tasting food."

During the event, table displays provided information from organizations such as Ward 57, the Wounded Warrior Project, Disabled American Veterans, TriWest, America's Credit Union, Pacific Grill, Firestone, and more. There were also displays of notable Hispanic American Servicemembers, including Medal of Honor winners, as well as a few events for kids.

The event also featured a jalapeño-eating contest and raffle prizes, including gift certificates, massages and even an iPod.

But mostly, it was about the chips and dip.

Judges included WTB Executive Officer Lt. Col. Stephen Hickenbottom, Acting Army Community Service Division Chief Al Ablong, Puget Sound USO Director Don Leingang, Staff Sgt. Stan Tucker and Spc. Marcus France, both WTB Soldiers.  Judges graded each entrant's aroma, consistency, color, taste and aftertaste.

"I got it down to two very good ones," said Hickenbottom, "But the overall winner was in line with everyone else."

Trophies were awarded to the top three best tasting salsas as well as for "best display," "spiciest," and "most unique."

Stewart's team swept the competition, taking trophies for spiciest, most unique and best overall. Trained in the culinary arts, Stewart, who has never lost a chili cook-off contest, felt confident going in.  "I know what I'm doing in the kitchen," he said.

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