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USO Supporter, 'MasterChef' Champ to Serve Up Goodness at USO Gala

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

By Christian Pelusi 

In the crucible that is a reality TV cooking show, more than just cooking prowess is revealed. A person needs nerve, precision and smarts. Add in a hard-charging, hard-edged chef and judge Gordon Ramsey and it makes Jennifer Behm’s accomplishment even more impressive. Selected to a pool of 100 from 30,000 amateur chef contestants, Jennifer won the second season of FOX’s “MasterChef” last year.

For Jennifer, owner of Pink Martini Catering in Delaware, the program accurately portrayed the kind of quick thinking and creativity that is needed in her field.

“I tell people just follow me on a day of catering and ‘Improv’ is probably the best advice that I can give somebody going into the culinary realm,” she said, laughing. “Don’t panic; stay calm.”

And Jennifer has remained calm in the wake of Hurricane Sandy as she prepares 800 handmade, take-home desserts for this Friday’s USO Gala in Washington, D.C.

“Not everybody wants to eat their sweet treat right there, they’d rather eat it later, so we decided to go with an island rum-inspired cake. There’s no rum in it, but we’re calling it a rum cake,” she said.

Jennifer jumped at the opportunity to be of service for the USO for several reasons. First, her grandfather was a paratrooper in the Army during World War II and her brother, Tech. Sgt. Joshua Behm, is active duty Air Force and a recent recipient of the prestigious Col. Billy Jack Carter Award.

When tragedy struck her family last year with the loss of Joshua’s wife, Lilliana, Jennifer cared for her now five-year-old nephew when Joshua left on deployment, with a little help from the USO.

“When we lost my sister-in-law, the USO and some of its local members [in Delaware] actually stepped in and really helped and sent words of encouragement, which was phenomenal. And I know how much it means to them but it meant even more to us as a family to have that support. And when my brother was deployed, it definitely, definitely was nice to have that little ear to talk to and be like ‘Have you heard from him yet?’”

Jennifer was already very familiar with the USO center at Dover Air Force Base. Her involvement with them began after she was crowned Miss Delaware in Nov. 1999.

“I had the opportunity to work with some of the families at Dover while their loved ones were deployed. We did fun picnics and hung out with the kids and let them try on our tiaras and just kind of [brought them] some lighter moments. While they’re deployed … six, eight, 12 months can become very heavy on your heart. You just try to keep their spirits up, give them something special.”

Now, Jennifer’s able to experience the benefits of the USO’s work from a different perspective.

“As I’ve seen it with my nephew, when my brother’s been deployed, I’ve had him for nine months and then for four months and it’s a great honor for me to be able to take care of my nephew, but I also know he misses his daddy and to have somebody next to you from the USO saying ‘It’s going to be all right. Let’s have some fun.’ To try and forget for an hour or two.”

Jennifer will get to have some fun, as well, when she gets to swap her apron for a gown. She will be attending the gala with her brother and her husband of just a few weeks, Julio Lazzarini.

“Being part of the military family, it’s nice to be around other people that understand and get that feeling. To be able to share some happy memories, I’m already excited about it. I’m excited for my husband to be a part of it. His family has a strong military background, too, so it’s something very close to both our hearts and so for both of us to attend is fantastic.”

* * *

(Photos courtesy of Jennifer Behm) 

Donate today to support our troops this Veterans Day during the USO’s "Grant a Wish for Our Heroes" campaign. 

Federal employees can help the USO fulfill its mission to support troops and their families though the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. Please designate #11381. 

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