MasterChef competitor cooks for first responders

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kia Atkins
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Senior Airman Nicholas Navarro, 7th Security Forces Squadron response force leader, never expected a simple tweet would inspire Willie Mike, a top competitor from the show MasterChef, to make a visit here Aug. 15.

"Willie was an inspiration to me because he's always such a happy guy, and he brings everyone up," Navarro said. "He's always the one that's really humble on the show and always willing to help out if he can, and that alongside his support for the military is what prompted me to tweet him."

Navarro wasn't expecting such a quick response, but Willie, commonly referred to as "Big Willie", got back to him within a few days. Soon they started hashing out the details of Willie's trip to Dyess.

"The reason I decided to come to Dyess was that Nick Navarro reached out to me via Twitter about three weeks ago," Willie said. "He was wanting to further boost morale and he was telling me that he wanted someone to come in and help with that."

Big Willie came here to cook for over 70 first responders on his own time and with his own money. All the food was donated by members of the 7th SFS and firefighters from the 7th Civil Engineer Squadron.

He spent the day interacting with Airmen and held an autograph signing at the Dyess Exchange before doing what he does best: cooking. Many servicemembers and their families waited in line for a chance to meet and talk to this widely-known chef.

"I pride myself on not being amongst drama and being stress-free, so I believe that by me coming here and in brief conversations with individuals, I helped them realize that all the drama and stress are not needed," Willie said. "I am loving my time here. I have met so many great people here so far, and everyone has been so nice and welcoming."

When asked if he could recommend some cooking tips for Airmen and their families, he kept his sentiments straight and to the point.

"When you're in the kitchen, always have your basic staples: flour, eggs and sugar, because you can take those simple things and elevate a meal to a different level," Willie said. "Never be afraid to try something new. If you've never done it before, try it. It may come out right, it may not come out right, but you never know until you try. If you have the passion to cook, just cook."

Bringing joy to people through his cooking is what Willie strives to do. He believes that stress should be left outside of the kitchen.

"Do not be stressful in the kitchen," he said. "The kitchen is somewhere for everyone to have fun and be happy, and that's what we're going to do tonight."

On the menu for the first responders was spiced meatloaf, sour cream mashed potatoes, balsamic vinegar brussel sprouts and Willie's famous red velvet cake that was complimented by Gordon Ramsey on the show.

"The food was delicious," said Senior Airman Jeff Kidd, 7th CES firefighter. "Big Willie coming here is proof to me that there are still people out there who truly support our troops. He didn't have to do this; he did this out of the kindness of his heart. He's a great guy who made us some great food and his red velvet cake was amazing. I hope to see him again sometime."

Willie said he was very grateful for the opportunity to cook for the first responders and meet with the Airmen and families on base.

"My grandma always says that when you're blessed, you have to bless," Willie said. "I was blessed with this wonderful opportunity to come here and cook. It's important for me to give back to people, such as military members, that are always giving."