Marines and sailors strap on aprons for cook-off

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO — Roman Emperor Maurice once said, “The commander who fails to provide his warriors with necessary food is making arrangements for his own defeat, even with no enemies present.”
The importance of military cuisine hasn’t changed much from 600 A.D., but the quality has. Marine Corps Installation West’s regional food service teamed up with Sodexo to hold its Chef of the Quarter competition at the Duncan mess hall, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego June 8.
The contest was open to all Marines and sailors who work in the military food service community.
“It’s all about pursuing food service excellence through friendly competition,” said Patrick T. Grosso, regional food service manager, Camp Pendleton.
Grosso explained the competition wasn’t just a way for chefs to show off their skills, but a way to learn through experience.
On the first day, 18 individual participants were given a written test about basic food service information, then they were placed back into their two-man teams for a short Jeopardy-style battle. Questions were based on important basics such as cooking safety and sanitation.
At the end of the day, the four teams that advanced included Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. The remaining teams were given a mystery basket full of ingredients pertaining to the theme of the month — soul food — and had limited time to prepare a menu that would appeal to the judges and a small group of critics.
The second day kicked off with spatulas and knives in full force to prepare an award-winning meal that would land them the prize of a five-week course at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. They were judged on sanitation, taste, texture and presentation.
“This is something we really wanted, we always compete on the Navy side of the house but wanted to compete on the Marine side and maybe open up some doors,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Denis Camarillio. Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Gerritson and Camarillio prepared a meal fit for kings, but with nutrition in mind to cater to their everyday chow hall-goers.
They now have the challenge and pleasure of going back to their unit and serving the dish they made at the competition for their own chow hall, which consisted of fresh green salad with grilled chicken and a mixed berry vinaigrette, rolled stuffed pork wrapped with bacon, sautéed kale with ham hocks, roasted sweet potatoes, and bread pudding with fresh rhubarb jam.
“It’s a lot of hard work and not glamorous,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Gerritson. “This is a good way to show we don’t just open cans and warm stuff up.”

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