Fort Jackson Dining Facility Redefines the Meaning of “An Army Marches On Its Stomach”

An army operating on an empty stomach is an army operating inefficiently. With the opening of Victory Fresh, soldiers and civilians at Fort Jackson will find their stomachs rumbling no more.

Victory Fresh, a new restaurant promoting healthy, affordable eating has opened its doors at Fort Jackson. The restaurant offers a variety of fresh and nutritious meals for soldiers and civilians on base. With quick grab-and-go options cooked in a newly built kitchen, Victory Fresh is redefining mealtime for Soldiers.

The grand opening took place with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by garrison leadership, community members and local leaders. Also in attendance was a special guest who knows his way around a kitchen, celebrity chef and British Royal Navy veteran, Robert Irvine.

Soldiers wait for their power bowls to be made at Victory Fresh at Fort Jackson. The warrior restaurant that features healthy and quick items held its grand opening, Feb. 28, 2024. U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY NATHAN CLINEBELLE

The concept of Victory Fresh is not new. In 2017, Irvine opened the first iteration at the Pentagon, named Fresh Kitchen. Its success drew the eyes of Fort Jackson commanders as they looked for new dining options to improve quality of life for their soldiers.

Motivated by his prior military service and dedication to the men and women who serve every day, Irvine felt a call to this possible life changing mission.

“The men and women of the Department of Defense go above and beyond for the American people every day. It is not a 9-5 kind of job where they get to leave their work at the office and go home; every person involved in our national security has an important job, and I think it weighs on them,” said Irvine. “What can a chef do about that? At the very least, I thought it would be nice for those folks to have delicious food to look forward to at their office. Food that is also nutritious and energizing. Food that could give them the energy to do a difficult, demanding job in a way that fast food never could.”

Working closely together, Irvine, Fort Jackson and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District fleshed out the concept for Victory Fresh. He knew that what worked at the Pentagon, where diners grab food and take it to their office to eat, would not work on an active base.

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“Take-out needed to be the primary focus for folks who are constantly on the go,” Irvine said. “There couldn’t be anything on the menu that weighed you down. It had to be very healthy, fresh and true clean-burning fuel.”

Opening a restaurant is no easy feat, something Irvine is keenly familiar with. As a successful restauranteur and the host of “Restaurant Impossible,” he knows the challenges of opening a restaurant. Opening Victory Fresh, he had a helping hand from the District.

“I’ve been doing this long enough to know to expect the unexpected. In the past, I’ve had some real logistical nightmares while opening restaurants. I’m pleased to say there wasn’t anything terribly difficult about opening Victory Fresh because my team and I were well-prepared and of course, because the Corps of Engineers was so helpful,” Irvine said.

They transformed a storage area into a state-of-the- art kitchen by designing and awarding a contract, providing quality assurance, and continuing to provide preventative maintenance. With less than a month until the ribbon cutting, the District was asked for a last-minute change, installing a serving window for passing pizzas to hungry soldiers. The team had it done within a week.

“We spent many months trying to get the project off the ground, and it took a lot of work,” said Jason Hinton, resident engineer at the Charleston District Fort Jackson Office. “Though it took our field office plenty of long and hard days, we successfully opened Victory Fresh, a victory for all.”

USACE PHOTO BY DYLAN BURNELL

Victory Fresh is part of a larger initiative to promote healthy eating on military installations across the country. The Department of Defense has made efforts to improve the nutritional quality of food served on bases, recognizing that good nutrition is essential to maintaining the health and readiness of military personnel.

The opening of Victory Fresh has been met with enthusiasm from the Fort Jackson community. Soldiers and civilians working on the post have praised the healthy options and quickly became regular customers.

“It has been very well received,” said Post Command Sergeant Major Erik Ochs. “I have about 4,000 soldiers here on the installation as a permanent party, but we also have around 10,000 civilian employees who are looking for healthy meal options.”

With its focus on healthy eating and fresh ingredients, Victory Fresh is poised to become a popular destination for military personnel and their families. Their commitment to providing quality food will have a positive impact on the wellbeing of the Fort Jackson community.