Cooks stir up cuisine at quarterly competition
By Cpl. Michelle Brinn
| Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | December 07, 2012
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, CA --
Stick a refrigerator, an oven, a sink and some food in a room, and the average person would call it a kitchen; but this kitchen had another name.
The aromas were similar. Spices and seasonings lined the storage spaces; there were the typical appliances, but something was different. Room after room, freezers, ovens, steamers, storage spaces, warmers- you name it; there was more than one filling this cooks' haven.
Military cooks know this sort of kitchen as a galley. Here they can prepare food in a manner similar to a restaurant kitchen. For them, it's where the magic happens, and on Dec. 5, four two-person teams entered the 41-Area mess hall's galley ready to compete.
Each fiscal quarter, cooks from the Marine Corps' Southwest bases come together for a chef-of-the-quarter competition to give Marines and their civilian-contractor counterparts from different mess halls in the region a chance to showcase their cooking talents.
The prize is an all-expenses paid trip to The Culinary Institute of America to enhance the winners' cooking skills through a professional, two-month course.
Each team is judged in an array of categories from visual presentation and overall taste, to knowing the rules of the galley and time management.
Judges decided who won the big prize, but taste-testers and other guests chose a winner for a 'People's Choice' award. This quarter, one team earned both titles.
"My partner and I worked seamlessly together," said Sgt. Sean Dodds, the head cook of the winning team from 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.
Neither Dodds nor his partner Cpl. John Lucido had ever cooked in a galley before the competition.
Both Dodds and Lucido typically prepare "heat-and-serve" meals for Marines in a field environment. Like the other teams, they were nominated by their mess hall representatives to compete.
"I'd say time management was our biggest success," said Dodds, a 26-year-old Memphis native. He said he and Lucido worked restlessly during the four hours they had to prepare their meal, and to Dodds, that meant they were doing it right.
Dodds and Lucido said they encountered a few bumps in the road: the galley did not have all the ingredients for their pre-planned recipes so they had to improvise.
"The competition promotes teamwork among everyone who works at the mess halls," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Ronald Mazurek, the base's food technician who works in conjunction with all of the region's mess halls. "It gives them a sense of accomplishment and allows us to acknowledge their extraordinary efforts."
The competition was fierce and the scores were close, said Donovan Brown, the West Coast regional executive chef. In every competition, he said the quality of food has impressed the command.
The second-quarter competition is slated to take place in March.