At 1700 on Friday, Spc. Solomon Kolapo has nearly finished hand grilling the 250 T-bone steaks he’ll serve to the soldiers of Bravo Co. at Sperwan Ghar. He’ll spend two and a half hours grilling the steaks.

Kolapo, 29, from New York City, New York, seasons the meat, then taps each steak with a pair of tongs to test it.

“I have to grill them for a couple of minutes,” Kolapo said. He’ll stick them in deep stainless steel pans and put them in a warmer until dinner is served at 1730.

By many soldiers’ reckoning, Sperwan Ghar serves the best chow in the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment‘s area of operation, though not everyone agrees on what the soldiers like best.

“Mac and cheese. And chicken,” said Kolapo, who’s family is from Nigeria.

“Believe it or not–steak,” said Sgt. Tirsa Cole, the Dining Facility Manager. “They can’t get enough of it.”

Friday and Sunday nights are steak nights while supplies last.

Then again, the soldiers are happy with just about everything Cole and her staff make. Cole runs the facility with three military personnel and one local national in the kitchen. There are six additional workers who help clean and run the DFAC.

Cole, 29, calls New Orleans, La., home. She grew up around good food though she never did any cooking.

“My mom and dad have a small little restaurant, Sonny’s Seafood,” she said.

“Working with the infantry, they really appreciate us,” Cole said. “Going out on a mission and coming in to a hot meal, they really appreciate us.”

“All the guys I’m fortunate to know, they all care,” Cole said of her staff. “They care about food service and they care about how the food tastes and what the guys think of it.”

And the soldiers notice.

“It’s the best chow hall in the Horn of Panjawa’i,” said 1st. Lt. Gregory George, who’s based at Sperwan Ghar.

“They have that thing they do with the ham and cherries,” said Stf. Sgt. Robert Head. “That’s the best.”

“There’s been two missions when these guys had to go out at 3 a.m. and she (Sgt. Cole) got up and made them breakfast,” said 1st Sgt. Westley Bockert, 36, from Toledo, Ohio.

“The brigade commander’s TAC–when they have the flexibility to stop, they choose to eat here,” said Bravo Co. Commander Cpt. Len Blaylock, from Nimrod, Ark. “Sgt. Cole gets props.”

“Chow–it’s so crucial to morale,” Blaylock said. “Have cold food if you want to see morale plummet.”

“Chow time–it’s one of the things I look forward to,” said Pvt. Liliana Nunez, from Brownsville, Texas. “It’s one of the few things that can make me happy in Afghanistan.”

“Awesome,” said Nunez, of Bravo’s food. Nunez is stationed at Forward Operating Base Shoja, though as a member of the Female Engagement Team, she travels to different outposts to work on missions.

“It always has flavor. It’s tasty. It’s like they put work into it.”

“You put your back into,” said Spc. Malecia James to Cole. James is another member of the FET who visits Sperwan Ghar on missions. “You season the food.”

Kalupo said there’s another secret ingredient.

“We care about it. We cook with heart,” he said. “That’s what makes the food taste better.”

NOTE: I know. I know. This post begs for group photo of the Sperwan Ghar cooks and crew. I’m at Bravo today, so I’ll see what I can do and add the image to this post as soon as I can.