Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) competed in the 26th Annual Armed Forces Culinary Competition at Olympic College, May 5.
The event featured U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army and veteran chefs from the Pacific Northwest who competed in several categories, including barbecue ribs, chicken wings, desserts, chili, cake decorating, hors d’oeuvres and a team-based “Battling Chefs” showdown.
“As CSs (culinary specialists), this is our job,” said Chief Culinary Specialist Tasia Penaranda, from Bridgeport, Connecticut. “I want my Sailors to show what they can do and get their skills out there. It’s bragging rights; they’re letting people know who they are and they get to bring that back to the ship.”
Culinary Specialist 1st Class Rechele Crawford, from Bremerton, Washington, Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Jackson, from Austin, Texas and Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Justin Wollam, from Vidor, Texas, made up the Nimitz Battling Chefs team, with six other Sailors competing in various categories. They presented tossed spring mixed salad with sliced artichokes and lemon preserve, lamb steaks with preserved lemons and herbs with a side of roasted vegetables, and a dessert of apple mojito sorbet to the judges for the “Battling Chefs” portion of the competition.
Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Vivian Garcia, from Anaheim, California, won 1st place in the white-based cake decorating category, Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lowe, from St. Louis, won 2nd place in the chili category, Culinary Specialist Seaman Cody Fletcher, from Houston, won 1st place in the barbecue ribs category, and Culinary Specialist Seaman Taylor Milburn, from Noble, Illinois and Culinary Specialist Seaman Cooper Moody, from New Orleans, together won 3rd place in the desserts category.
“It was pretty nerve-racking,” said Milburn. “It’s different going from deployment cooking for a ton of people to cooking such a small portion where the judges are dissecting every ingredient that goes into it. Here, they ask specific questions like what kind of flour you used, how long it took you to make it, what kind of flavors you put into it, why you chose the colors you used.”
The judges critiqued each entry based on flavor, creativity and presentation.
“Since the environment is so different from the ship, the planning is a lot different,” said Penoranda. “You’re trying to make a hundred-dollar plate, so you’re looking at everything, not just taste.”
When asked if they would enter the competition in the future, most of the participants from Nimitz said they would love to enter as many culinary competitions available to them.
“It gets our names out there,” said Milburn. “It’s a fun, exciting experience.”
Penaranda said she appreciated the hard work of her Sailors representing Nimitz, and she’s glad they got the experience to share with their friends and shipmates. She hopes that they will value the experience and use it and build from it in future competitions.
Nimitz is conducting a docking planned incremental availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility where the ship is receiving scheduled maintenance and upgrades.