MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
For 12 amateur cooks vying to be the first American Master Chef, the only thing more intimidating than Chef Gordon Ramsay breathing down their necks while they prepared a meal was staring at 400 hungry Marines and their families.
Camp Pendleton’s Camp Del Mar’s beach was the location used for the filming of one of the recently aired episodes of the new TV show, "Master Chef." The reality show is a competition that pits amateur cooks against one another for a $250,000 prize, a cookbook deal and the title of Master Chef.
The 12 remaining challengers stepped onto the beach not knowing what to expect when a Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle appeared out of the waves and attacked the beach.
As the AAV came to a halt, the back hatch opened and out stepped chef, restaurant owners and co hosts of the show, Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich, along with the base commanding officer, Col. Nick Marano.
"Our chow halls serve 778,000 pounds of meat and poultry, along with more than 200,000 pounds of vegetables, to Marines and sailors every month," said Col. Marano.
"So get your game face on," said Ramsay to the contestants. "You have till 1500 (3 p.m.) to prepare one delicious main course, two sides and a dessert and you do not keep these Marines waiting," he demanded.
After separating the 12 cooks into two six-man teams, they made their way to the base’s South Mesa Club to prepare the meal.
Over the next several hours, the contestants hustled to overcome the challenges of preparing a meal for more than 400 people.
"(The competitors) have to remember they're serving Marines - these guys can pack away some food," said Chef Elliot, as he warned the contestants on the shortage of side dishes.
As the clock neared 3 p.m., the contestants scrambled to gather all of their creations and headed back to the beach to serve the members of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, who were scheduled to deploy in the near future.
“The food is amazing,” said Pfc. Edward Snoddy, amtracker crewman with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st LAR. “It took a lot of time and effort to put this together, and it means a lot to us. I’m going to miss chow like this while we’re deployed.”
The Marine’s chose between the blue team’s meal of stuffed pork tenderloin, creamy mashed potatoes, roasted corn cob salad and a patriotic desert and the red team’s meal of barbecue skirt steak, vegetables, potatoes au gratin and an apple pastry.
The competition was close, but the blue team took the challenge, due to the red team's lack of vegetables.
"We’re proud to be here and we’re proud of the Marines,” said Jake Gandolfo a member of the blue team. “The Marines were so stoked about the food, and their motivation was super high. It was the least we could do and we’re glad they enjoyed it.”