YOKOSUKA, Japan (April 12, 2021) — Five Sailors and civilians from Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) put their baking skills to the test, crowning one winner in CFAY’s Dessert Bake-off, April 12.
Rear Adm. Brian Fort, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan/ Commander, Navy Region Japan (CNFJ/CNRJ) challenged Navy installations across Japan to create an American dessert inspired by Japanese ingredients. Contestants were encouraged to “create an incredibly American dessert inspired by Japanese ingredients,” and “find a new way to say thank you” to Japan’s kindness and hospitality for the Navy community. The contestants were also required to share their hearts, memories, and stories of their American experience when creating and presenting the dessert.
“My special ingredient is Japanese fresh yuzu,” said Cryptology Technician 2nd Class (Networks) William Alex Cryptologic, assigned to Navy Information Operations Command Yokosuka. Alex baked and presented a yuzu cupcake with yuzu and honey icing. “I picked this specifically because I love the fresh smell that yuzu has. I was inspired to make this dessert as I remember from childhood lemon pancakes my grandmother used to make.”
Alex was joined by Sara Tibbits, who created a Mount Fuji apple crumble; Geraldine Henderson, who created a yuzu curd and custard fruit tartlets; Rebecca Roskowski, who created a chocolate strawberry cupcake; and, Janice Bennett, Ph.D., who created a brown butter sweet potato hand pie.
The bake-off proved to be a tough game, resulting in a tie between the chocolate strawberry cupcake by Roskowski and the browned butter sweet potato hand pie by Bennett.
The desserts were judged by five cooking specialists from the Yokosuka area, including judges from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). The judges included Matthew Twigg, CNRJ ashore food service officer, Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Richard Yanagihara, Toshiki Hiruta, CFAY’s galley baker, JMSDF Chief Culinary Specialist Hiroyuki Ogata, attached to Japanese ice breaker JS Shirase (AGB 5003), and Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Daiki Hosoi, attached to JMSDF submarine JS Yaeshio (SS 598). CFAY’s Commanding Officer Capt. Rich Jarrett was brought in as the tie-breaking judge.
The first place prize went to Bennett.
“I am totally surprised,” said Bennett. “My inspiration for it was learning how to actually cook Japanese sweet potatoes because it is very different from American sweet potatoes. It’s very starchy. The American sweet potato has more water content in it. So I learned here we have to bake them, and the longer we roast them … [the] more buttery they are. Definitely sweeter. Baking it in a Japanese kitchen was also a challenge for me.”
Bennett’s hand pies looked akin to American hand pies with a whipped brown butter on the side. Bringing the taste of American sweet potato pie to Japan is what ultimately swayed Jarrett to pick this “oishi” (a Japanese word used to describe something that “looks delicious”) dessert.
Prior to the conclusion of the event, Ogata, assigned to the ice breaker JR Shirase, presented CFAY with a block of ice they recently brought back from Antarctica.
“The event was heartfelt because their stories had their own individual stories behind them,” said Ogaka. “Of course everything was delicious, not so sweet, and many Japanese would think the way as I do.”
The dessert challenge winner will add to the tradition of culture sharing and long-standing friendship between the U.S. Navy and the Japanese community when CFAY formally presents the dessert and recipe to the City of Yokosuka later this year.
In 2008, CFAY provided the City of Yokosuka with the Navy Burger. In 2009, CFAY saluted the symbolic cherry blossom of Japan with a New York-style cheese cake, which is topped with cherries. The NY cherry cheese cake has also been a long-standing request from Yokosuka restaurants.
The two American recipes are part of the long history between the city and the Navy. The city is also widely known for its traditional Japanese navy curry and rice, satisfying many Yokosuka tourists’ stomachs. Traditionally, this dish was one that Japan’s former navy service members and JMSDF sailors customarily savored on Fridays in order to adjust their sense of time during their duties.
The next time you are hungry for a meal, take a bite out of CFAY and Yokosuka’s enduring friendship by enjoying one of the dishes created by years of cultural sharing.
For more than 75 years, CFAY has provided, maintained, and operated base facilities and services in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward-deployed naval forces, tenant commands, and thousands of military and civilian personnel and their families.