IWAKUNI, YAMAGUCHI, JAPAN
Story by Lance Cpl. Trista Whited
U.S. Marines, Sailors, and Japanese employees with the Food Services Department (FSD) aboard Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni and Camp Foster, Okinawa competed for the title of Marine Corps Installations Pacific (MCIPAC) Marine Corps Food Service Specialist of the Quarter, at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, March 31, 2021.
The culinary competition was held to display the creativity and skill of the food service specialists. Two teams from Iwakuni and one team from Okinawa demonstrated these traits in the competition, where rules allowed for greater creative freedom than the restrictions normally imposed on FSD facilities.
“The goal of this competition was to show the skills that the cooks have,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Tony Smith, a food technician with III Marine Expeditionary Force, “I know that Marines and Sailors come to the mess hall every day and they see what’s on the line, but that’s not everything that the cooks can do. So, they want to show their skills and prepare things that patrons don’t normally see when they come in the mess hall.”
The competitors are chosen after a series of tests including a written and oral test. Marine Corps leadership continues to organize culinary competitions to boost moral, test knowledge and skill, and instill a competitive drive in their Marines, Sailors, and civilian employees by challenging them to think outside of the box.
“They want to be cooks. They just don’t want to mass produce food all of the time,” said Smith, “So, I think it motivates other cooks to want to do that, to challenge them. It’s not easy getting in front of a Colonel in the Marine Corps and senior enlisted advisors and presenting your products, hoping they like it.”
The Marines, Sailors, and Japanese employees of MCAS Iwakuni and Camp Foster, Okinawa brought their drive to the competition and communicated well with their teammates to concoct dishes from predetermined ingredients, including: rib-eye, cod, and raspberries. At the end of the competition, only one team could walk away with the title of MCIPAC Marine Corps Food Service Specialist of the Quarter. Takao Tatsagawa and Cpl. Juan Simon, food service specialists with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron (H&HS), were awarded first place for their attention to detail, flavor, and over-all judge satisfaction.
“It was a long shot, but a lot of things can be miracles. I was just one of the lucky ones,” said Cpl. Juan Simon, 1st place winner of the MCIPAC Marine Corps Food Service Specialist of the Quarter culinary competition, “Some people are born to be cooks, and some people work hard to become a good chef or cook, but it’s just a learning experience that will help me grow.”