John L. Hennessy Award
Aviano Gains National Recognition
by Senior Airman Sarah Gregory
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
5/12/2006 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- For the past 50 years, the National Restaurant Association and the Hennessy Travelers Association have honored the special achievements of Air Force food service facilities worldwide. This year, they are recognizing one of Aviano’s own.
Tech. Sgt. Derrick Wells, 31st Services Squadron La Dolce Vita dining facility manager, was one of five U.S. Air Forces in Europe Airmen selected for the award and will attend the award presentation in Chicago May 20. The Hennessy trophy is an annual award presented to Air Force installations with the best food service programs. The award is based on the entire scope of an installation’s food service program with winners displaying excellence in management effectiveness, force readiness support, food quality, employee and customer relations, resource conservation, training and safety awareness. Each installation is evaluated by teams consisting of members from the National Restaurant Association, the Society for Foodservice Management, the International Food Service Executives Association and the Air Force.
Each team selects an Air Force military food service person who exemplifies the highest standards of professionalism, attitude, and culinary skill as the recipient of the award of excellence.
Sergeant Wells, who is constantly looking for ways to improve menu items, the facility’s atmosphere and its overall appearance, said that winning has been an honor. “This is a career milestone that not many people in food service achieve,” he said.
With 11 years of food service experience and five deployments under his belt, Sergeant Wells has had plenty of practice perfecting his skills. Besides his professional knowledge, Sergeant Wells has a passion for food and cooking, which goes back to his early childhood.
“My love for cooking began when I was young. To help raise their six children, my grandparents worked long hours. My mother and grandmother would tell me stories about life during that time and how difficult it was to make ends meet. Payday was at the end of the week and nothing brought the family closer than good food,” Sergeant Wells said. “Sunday was a special day. The family would attend church and then gather around the dinner table for a big meal. Sunday dinners were like Thanksgiving. My grandmother and mother’s ability to cook was nothing short of art. Each meal was a creation of beauty and flavor that truly united the family.
”Sergeant Wells turned that love of cooking into a successful military career and has received several other awards such as USAFE’s 2005 Services Technician of the Year and the 31st Services Squadron NCO of the Year for 2005.
“Sergeant Wells is an outstanding food service manager who attacks all challenges with enthusiasm and dedication,” said Maj. David Kretz, 31st Services Squadron commander.
As the La Dolce Vita dining facility manager, Sergeant Wells directly leads 29 personnel and is responsible for maintaining the $1.2 million facility, including the flight kitchen.
In addition to being recognized at the national awards ceremony, Sergeant Wells will receive a $2,500 scholarship.
As part of the 50th year Hennessy Anniversary celebration, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation has established a special scholarship program. These scholarships were established to encourage study and careers in the restaurant and food service industry after completing their Air Force service, and can be used at a restaurant and hospitality management or culinary school of the recipient’s choice any time over the next five years.
Sergeant Wells said that although the recognition is nice, it’s the satisfied customers that really count.
“Every day I am at work and I see the smiling faces of the dining patrons I know that I made the right decision [to join the service],” he said. “I strive each day to make every meal like Sunday dinner at grandmother’s house. Even if it is only for a moment, I want my customers to forget about their daily problems and enjoy good food.”