Chef's journey to success

By Senior Airman Divine Cox, 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs on May 18, 2017

What do Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray all have in common with Derek Torrence? Like Torrence, they are all professional chefs. Torrence may not have the million-dollar television contract, but he does cook delicious and healthy food for members of the Armed Forces.

Derek Torrence, McChord Club executive chef, has been serving up great food at the McChord Club since May 2015.

"Since I've been here, we've been trying to increase the quality of food the club provides, trying to make less pre-made and more handmade food," Torrence said.

Torrence was afforded the chance to make his dream of becoming a chef real when he went to Culinary Arts School and graduated from Johnson & Wales University in 2008.

"My mom was a good cook, so I cooked with her a lot growing up," said Torrence. "I used to watch a lot of cooking shows; I just liked the idea of making good food and seeing how it was presented."

After college, Torrence moved back with his parents, where he was offered a job with the U. S. Army.

"I grew up a military brat," said Torrence. "My dad retired from the army after 23 years, so after I graduated college, I was granted the opportunity for work on Carlisle Barracks at the Army War College for a couple years."

While continuing his path to become a chef, Torrence received another great opportunity to help him progress in his career.

"While working at the War College, the corporate chef from Morale, Welfare and Recreation came to help us with a graduation," said Torrence. "While working with him, he said he liked the way worked, and got me into the Army's developmental chef program, which sent me to Hawaii for three months at the Hale Koa."

From there, Torrence was sent to the Dragon Hill Lodge in Korea, then to Fort Knox, Kentucky for three years, then landed a job here at McChord.

"I am a jack of all trades," said Torrence. "I can cook, grill, broil, fry, flambé. I can do it all."

Here at McChord, the club provides services for Airman Leadership School graduations, weddings, retirements, promotions, farewells and during lunch at the McChord Grill.

"I like doing what I do for the military because, growing up military, I got to go to a couple bases and the food wasn't too good," said Torrence. "So I decided to go to school to get the skills to provide better food for the servicemembers. It's my way of serving and giving back to the military."

Torrence said since becoming a chef, his motto has always been to prep it, cook it, and serve it.

"My goal is to provide fine dining to our servicemembers," said Torrence. "Servicemembers should be offered great food without having to go to a fancy restaurant, and I want to continue to provide a great service to the military and their families."