Former Defender, Chopped Military Salute winner returns to JBSA-Lackland, offers advice to fellow Defenders

  • Published
  • By Vanessa R. Adame
  • 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

Two decades after attending Security Forces technical training here, Master Sgt. Opal Poullard, 345th Training Squadron, returned to the 37th Training Wing – to where it all started in 2003. The Security Forces beret she once wore has been replaced by a toque. 

Poullard was on base to support healthy living events through the Robert Irvine Foundation’s Breaking Bread with Heroes program, June 14 - 15. Poullard, who spent 14 years as a Defender, retrained into a special duty career field and became an Enlisted Aide. There, she trained through the Advanced Culinary Program and received a Professional Chef 1 certification through the Culinary Institute of America.  

“I loved being a defender, but I knew that I had a different calling in life,” Poullard said.   

Following her dream led her to compete against 16 other military members for the Food Network show, Chopped, Military Salute Edition which aired in May. Poullard won the challenge, then advanced to compete in the military team finale against three celebrity chefs to include Chef Amanda Freitag, Chef Eric Adjepong and Chef Tiffany Faison. Again, Poullard was proclaimed the winner; she earned $50,000 for the Blue Star Families Charity Fund.  

Poullard currently serves as an instructor for the Advanced Culinary Program holding the sole Certified Executive Chef certification in the Air Force through the American Culinary Federation. She is also a Sommelier with a level 2 Award in wine through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. She points to that as a testament of what can be accomplished in one’s career. 

“The best advice that I can give [Airmen] is never give up. Keep working hard at what you do, whether it is your favorite job or not,” she said. “As long as you’re giving 100 percent, your efforts will be recognized in the end. The things that you dream of and aspire for will eventually come your way.” 

Poullard will retire from the Air Force in the next few months; looking back she is filled with gratitude.  

“I’ve had the best career that I could possibly ever ask for. Holding on throughout the years and never quitting has enabled me to receive the opportunity to do what I love,” Poullard said. “This means everything to me, I owe that to the Air Force.”