- Associated Press - Monday, June 8, 2015

ENID, Okla. (AP) - When Bobbi Worth was in the Army, she was a truck driver and fuel handler, helping provide fuel for vehicles.

Now retired, Worth works providing fuel on an Air Force base, but for human bodies, not for trucks or aircraft.

She is the head chef at the Vance Collocated Club, leading a compact culinary team that provides meals to airmen and civilians alike, the Enid News & Eagle (http://bit.ly/1KNnl0L ) reported.

Worth recently attended the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, where she earned the title of ProChef Level I.

The program was an intense two-week session.

“You crammed, studied, for like a week and the next week you have the exams,” Worth said. “You have hands-on in the morning and you have a written exam in the afternoon.”

Students must carry a 75 average to remain in the program.

“Any day you could fail out,” she said.

To achieve ProChef I certification, according to the program’s website, candidates “must demonstrate proficiency in foundational culinary applications, interpersonal skills and financial aptitude. Successful candidates also must display a sense of responsibility and dedication in all facets of their work.”

“It was the worst thing I ever done,” Worth said, laughing.

Nonetheless, she plans to go back for the ProChef Level 2 course.

“That’s Mediterranean-style cooking,” she said. “If I get through two I’ll be the same as an executive chef.”

The training was detailed, Worth said, the instructors demanding.

“You had to do all your knife techniques,” she said. “The dicing we do has a particular name, your juliennes, your oblique. They were very precise. You had better have it eighth (of an inch) by eighth, quarter by quarter. You had to tournée potatoes. Nobody tournées anymore, but that’s still part of the training.”

Worth has been at the Vance Club since 1999, beginning as a line cook, then becoming kitchen supervisor.

Prior to that she worked at Toucan Harry’s in the Midwestern Inn on Van Buren (now the Comfort Inn). After Toucan Harry’s was destroyed by fire, she took the job at Vance.

“I used to borrow linen from here and they knew of my reputation, and asked if I would come out here and be their night cook and run their functions,” she said.

Worth and her three colleagues in the Vance Club kitchen prepare lunch Monday through Friday, and dinner Tuesday evening and on non-graduation Fridays.

She said the best part of working at the Vance Club has been “The teamwork. It’s such a small group that it takes all of us working together as a team to pull off the functions. If one person’s gone, you notice it. It’s the closeness of all my co-workers. Everybody gets along really well.”

During large functions, she said, everyone pitches in, including the managers and the caterer.

“We’ve been doing it for so long that it’s almost second nature,” Worth said. “We know exactly when it needs to be plated and ready to go out the door. It seems hard, but it’s easy. It’s all in the steps that you take to prepare to get to the serving point.”

Worth began cooking at an early age. She came from a big Italian family (six girls and three boys), and her mother didn’t waste time getting her started in the kitchen.

“We did a lot of cooking growing up,” Worth said. “It’s like an art, I like it.”

She used to dream of having her own Italian restaurant, which she says may still be in the cards once she retires from her present job.

She particularly enjoys cooking for a living, she said, because “It’s not having to do the same hum-drum task every day. I could never sit at a desk eight hours a day. I think I have adult ADD.”

Worth said she enjoys interacting with her customers.

“You can go out and actually talk to them and get their feedback,” she said.

Her passion is preparing big dinners or meals for special functions. For a Mother’s Day brunch last month, Worth and her staff carved a watermelon in the shape of a whale and filled it with iced shrimp. Diners were amazed.

“‘They were like, ‘Wow, you guys did it,’” she said, “and I was like ‘Yeah, and with just a little paring knife, too.’ We make do. We don’t have a food processor. There’s a lot of things our kitchen doesn’t have, but we just improvise and we can still get it done.”

Bobbi and her crew cook up graduation dinners, change-of- command dinners and food for wedding receptions. In addition, they do school reunions and even proms. They serve the meal for the base’s annual Masquerade Ball, and provide food for each pilot training class’ assignment night.

“We can do just about any aspect of fine dining,” Worth said.

The Air Force requires that the club’s menu be 80 percent core dishes, meals that are served at every base - such as prime rib, southwest chicken, burgers and Philly cheesesteak. The other 20 percent can be original.

Worth’s specialty is barbecue, only it is not referred to as that at the Vance Club. Instead it is known as Bobbi Q.

“The Bobbi Q is my baby,” she said. “I do all the smoking and we do a tenderloin medallion that is my recipe that I’ve given to the club.”

Other Bobbi Worth specialties are various meat cordon bleus and a signature smoked salmon served with a cucumber dill sauce.

The club’s most requested dishes, she said, are filet mignon, southwest chicken and the various cordon bleus.

Worth is a native of Bangor, Michigan, who came to Enid with her husband after getting out of the Army.

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Information from: Enid News & Eagle, http://www.enidnews.com

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