For Marine Corps Chef, Cooking is The Spice of Life

Staff Sgt. Christopher Brandle, the enlisted aide for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, guides Gunnery Sgt. Julio Aquayo while preparing a dinner for the depot's commanding general and his guests Jan. 10, 2019. As Brandle's replacement, aguayo will be responsible for the cleanliness and maintenance of the general's home, his uniforms and cooking for daily meals and events. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)



Story by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren 

Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island 

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C.—MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C.—Staff Sgt. Christopher Brandle is meticulous when it comes to food. He spends countless hours, days, and sometimes weeks creating and perfecting meals for the depot’s commanding general and his guests.

Brandle’s craftsmanship and attention to detail is a product of the years he spent in his family’s kitchen in Fresno, California. He learned how to cook at an early age by catering events alongside his parents. Now at age 29, Brandle continues to refine his culinary skills by pushing himself in a way he had never planned on—by cooking for the Marine Corps.

“When I talked to the recruiter eleven years ago, I told him that I wanted to be a cook,” said Brandle. “Apparently, I learned, almost no one chooses to be a cook.”

Brandle spent his first four years cooking at various chow halls across Camp Pendleton, but he always wanted more.

While at the “Food Service NCO Course” Brandle heard about the Marine Corps Enlisted Aide Program. Brandle learned the Marine Corps Enlisted Aide Program’s trains and assigns food service Marines who volunteer to help general officers. Each aide works in a general’s home and prepares breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an official capacity and for sanctioned Marine Corps’ events.

Brandle believed working as an enlisted aide could offer him opportunities such as reporting directly to the commanding general, having a more fluid work schedule, and having the ability to choose the recipes and adjust them as he pleases.

After Brandle submitted for the program, the board reviewed and selected him to begin his training at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., in 2012, he said. However, his command at Marine Forces Reserve New Orleans, Louisiana, thought too highly of him and was not willing to lose him.

While in New Orleans, Brandle volunteered to work with the Marine Forces Reserve enlisted aide for dinners and events. Additionally, Brandle worked at local restaurants to learn new recipes and styles of cooking.

While Brandle was in the program training in D.C. in 2015, Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth asked him to come to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., to be his enlisted aide. Although Brandle had hoped to serve on the West Coast closer to family, Renforth convinced Brandle that Parris Island was a perfect fit.

Once on the island, Brandle learned the biggest part of his job would be the events the general hosts, he said. Hosting events keeps him busy and the fast-paced tempo of preparing food and making everything come together is what he enjoys the most about the job.

Brandle takes pride in his position because it is more than just a job for him; It’s a way to build his future and to become a better chef.

After the Marine Corps, Brandle plans to continue cooking and has thought about being a private chef or running his own food truck. Watching someone enjoy his food and seeing that reaction is what drives him to be a perfectionist in his cooking.

“Once I put that plate down in front of them and see their reaction— I know I’ve already won.”

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