CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, JAPAN
Story by Cpl. Christopher Madero
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan – U.S. Marines moved swiftly throughout the kitchen with speed and intensity, yet demanded precision and proper technique while handling meals. Although the cooks remained focused on the task at hand, they also ensured to not lose track of the other necessary duties. It was a well-calculated symphony of cooking tasks that came naturally to all Marines in the contest.
Fourteen Marines from seven Marine Corps Installations Pacific Mess Halls across Japan competed in a food service specialist of the quarter competition on Dec. 10-11
Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, MCAS Futenma, Camp Foster, Camp Kinser, Camp Hansen and Base Food Service took part in the competition.
It is a common misconception from non-basic food service Marines that a food service specialist of the quarter competition only involves cooking, however the food service competition extends beyond the kitchens of the mess halls, as it measures multiple areas of the ‘whole-Marine-concept’.
The competition has two stages. The first stage consisted of written and oral examinations. Marines were judged on military appearance, tact, bearing and knowledge. The knowledge portion consisted of military occupational specialty and Marine Corps related questions. Afterwards, all Marines were given a written test. At the end, overall scores determined which three of the seven teams would advance to the second stage.
Camp Hansen, MCAS Iwakuni and Base Food Service advanced into the second stage of the competition and began preparing food for the next competition day. The teams that did not proceed were officially eliminated from the competition.
The following day began. It was now time to cook.
From the very beginning of the second stage, a quality assurance evaluator followed the competitors to evaluate their strengths and areas for improvement.
“It’s important to have a competition like this because anybody can become stagnant in their careers.” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Jerwon Stephens, the food technician of MCIPAC. “This competition allows Marines to do something other than mass quantity cooking.”
After a long day of seasoning, cooking and food plating, it was finally time to have their creations evaluated.
The judges were Brig. Gen. William Bowers, commanding general of MCIPAC, Col. Jeffrey Hammond, commanding officer of Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCIPAC, and two Marine non-commissioned officers from H&S BN.
The Marines were graded based on a 260 point judging system.
Competitors were judged on: serving methods and presentation, portion size, nutritional balance, menu and ingredient compatibility, creativity, flavor, texture and doneness.
After a close competition, Cpl. Jaden Brown and Cpl. William Pangelinan took the first place trophies back to Camp Hansen where they will remain a symbol of food service excellence until next quarter.
“This is the first time I’ve ever competed in this competition,” said Pangelinan. “It is something I don’t normally run into as a food service Marine in the fleet. Just having the opportunity to do this makes me thankful.”
According to the Marine Corps mess hall leaders attending the event, all the Marines competing aren’t just great cooks – it would be impossible to get the opportunity if they were not incredible Marines.