SAN ANTONIO -

Todd Williams, winding down a 14-year career in the Army, knows a thing or two about pressure, having served three tours in Iraq. 

It's not a war zone, but a kitchen can get the heart rate up along with the blood pressure.

"Stress is always a factor in the kitchen, especially at crunch time," said Williams. "It's usually not stressful until it's about 10 minutes prior to serving the guests and that's when the stress jumps through the roof."

Williams, a Brookyln native, was part of one of three teams taking part in the 17th-annual Thanksgiving Dinner Challenge held at Central Market Wednesday afternoon. A far cry from Williams' past in the military, which officially comes to an end in January.

"I enjoyed every minute of it, but I was injured in Iraq and the Army graciously told me to find something else to do with my time and this was it," said Williams, who would only say "the bad guy missed" when discussing his injury.

"He's a very precise, organized, laid-out, planned person," added Patrick Costello, a chef instructor with St. Philip's who's overseeing the event for the first time. "Not everyone has that organizational background and the military really instills that in you."

Williams' team, "Plymouth Rocks," finished second in the competition, but his truffle-infused smoked turkey and sweet potato cheesecake received rave reviews from judges and customers after the event. 

His time in the military helped him during the competition and throughout his training.

"When you're cooking and you have a team you're working with, (you learn) skills of time management and (you learn) to be efficient and professional at your skill," said Williams.  "(You also learn) to adapt to different situations in the kitchen that might come about."

"Now that his career with the military is over, he's transitioning into his new future and he's always had a passion for food," added Costello. "He's a great guy and he's really going to go far. We're proud of him."

Williams said he plans to stay in San Antonio and is currently working with his brother on a concept for a local restaurant. 

Images: Thanksgiving dinner competition

Published On: Nov 14 2012 02:50:51 PM CST

Students enrolled in the culinary arts program of St. Philip's College take part in the 17th annual Thanksgiving dinner competition at Central Market. The three student teams created alternative turkey dinners to present to judges before serving meals to customers.

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