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Cooking for life, an Airman’s dream of becoming a chef

Senior Airman Timothy Dance, 436th Force Support Squadron Head Chef, pours a glaze on to a Bistecca con Pomodori alla Griglia, a pepper-crusted steak topped with grilled seasoned tomatoes and peppers, served with risotto and green beans, for a Patterson Dining Facility Birthday Meal, Sept. 23, 2010, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shen-Chia Chu/Released)

Senior Airman Timothy Dance, 436th Force Support Squadron Head Chef, pours a glaze on to a Bistecca con Pomodori alla Griglia, a pepper-crusted steak topped with grilled seasoned tomatoes and peppers, served with risotto and green beans, for a Patterson Dining Facility Birthday Meal, Sept. 23, 2010, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shen-Chia Chu/Released)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Most kindergarteners spend their time playing with Barbie dolls and running around the playground during recess.

For Senior Airman Timothy Dance, 436th Force Support Squadron, he traded in his toys for a set of kitchen utensils and stove cookware.

Cooking has always been a part of Airman Dance's life ever since he was six years old when he made soup for the very first time for his mother.

Airman Dance said he put everything he could think of in the refrigerator into the soup - even every spice and seasoning he could find from the kitchen cabinets.

"My mother told me from that day forward that I would always be a cook at heart, but I wasn't allowed to cook anything else until I learned from her, so she taught me how to make my very first dish of fruit salad," said Airman Dance.

The aspiring chef says his mother was his inspiration and influence who was the catalyst for his passion for cooking.

"My mother loved to cook. She was one of the better cooks in the family who used to brag that she has the best recipes that she'd only share with me," said Airman Dance. "She was very proud of my cooking and I would try to learn more by watching her prepare food. Her food tasted great every time even though she never used a recipe card."

Airman Dance was also influenced by his family, who currently own two restaurants and a catering company.

"I learned a lot being around our family restaurant, but I've always had a passion for cooking - especially gourmet and experimenting with different flavors and foods from all parts of the world," said Airman Dance. "I had cooked for our restaurant, but I decided to gain new experiences by taking a job as a line cook outside of our restaurant."

When Airman Dance decided to leave his cooking job at a restaurant to join the military, the thought did not cross his mind that he would have the opportunity to become a chef in the Air Force.

"I enlisted in to the open general careerfield and was randomly chosen to be into the Services Squadron, cooking in the Dining Facility," said Airman Dance. "The job was very easy for me, it was like second nature. I think as long as you follow the instructions on the recipe cards, anyone can cook."

The Services Squadron, now known as the 436th Force Support Squadron, offers Airmen a variety of jobs such as a food service specialist at the Patterson Dining Facility, managing the Fitness Center, scheduling and organizing for lodging at Eagle's Rest Inn, and also duties as a unit deployment manager.

Although Airman Dance currently works as a UDM readiness journeyman, he believes he's really a chef at heart and can't wait to return to cooking.

"I couldn't be a shift leader because of my rank, but I did make a name for myself in the kitchen at the Dining Facility so I was put in charge of making the birthday meals and title of first cook, someone who is responsible for sampling the entire meal that's made for the day."

Cooking may not be the most glamorous job one would boast about as a popular Air Force career, but it plays a vital role - feeding Airmen four meals a day all across the world.

"The military way of cooking is very structured, but it has taught me to be disciplined and exact as well as making it a great experience for Airmen to enjoy their food from the time they order to the time they finish," said Airman Dance.

Airman Dance left a lasting impression on a chief master sergeant, who said he had such an outstanding meal that he had to meet the chef.

"I was shocked when the chief came back to the kitchen to shake my hand, present me with a coin and thank me personally for all my efforts," said Airman Dance. "The only thing I did was take a regular dish from the Dining Facility and made a slight change, but I'm glad customers enjoy the food I make."

The Airman says he wants to share with others what he has learned from the experience of cooking and being with my family through opening his own restaurant one day.

"I hope to own five restaurants one day, each with a different concepts - creating new foods and doing what no one has ever been done before," said Airman Dance. "I really want to make my mark on the food industry, to be remembered not only from my food but also the entire experience from beginning to end."

"My dream is to share a unique palette tasting of a variety of all different kinds of food from all over the world," said Airman Dance.