Culinary Excellence: Military Sealift Command Mariners Honored with David M. Cook Award



Story by Bill Mesta 

USN Military Sealift Command 

The culinary experts who serve aboard four Military Sealift Command ships, expeditionary fast transport USNS Burlington (T-EPF 10), fleet replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys (T-AO 188), dry cargo ammunition ship Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) and submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40), were recognized for providing outstanding food service by earning the David M. Cook award at the Joint Military Services Award Ceremony held in Chicago, Illinois, May 20.

The David M. Cook Award was established in 1992 by MSC to improve the quality of shipboard food service operations and to formally recognize the Civil Service Mariners (CIVMAR) responsible for outstanding management of shipboard food service operations. These food service professionals are identified annually as the best of the best by the MSC Food Service Excellence Assessment Team.

“MSC has a long history of providing some of the best food in the U.S. Navy’s fleet,” stated Roberta Jio, Military Sealift Command Food Service Director. “The hours are long and the work is daunting, but MSC Food Service professionals afloat provide a service that is crucial to the health and welfare of all Mariners.”

The ability to provide healthy and delicious food for MSC’s Civil Service Mariners is operationally critical as proper nutrition is required to enable CIVMARs to perform the varied support missions to the U.S. Navy’s combatant fleet, according to Jio.

The David M. Cook award process involves a two-pronged approach.

“First, each nominated ship receives an initial evaluation utilizing the MSC Food Service Award checklist that is an enclosure in the Captain David M. Cook Food Service Excellence Award Instruction,” according to Jio. “The initial round is the elimination round where only two ships in each category (small, medium, large, and hybrid) from each coast move forward to the final round. The final round evaluation determines which ship from each category will be the overall winner of the annual competition.”

USS Richard E. Byrd and USS Frank Cable are multiple year recipients of the David M. Cook award; displaying culinary excellence over an extended period of time.

“When the ship’s leadership have the same approach and overall goal to provide the crew of their vessel the best customer service possible on a daily basis,” Jio said. “The food service team can work to provide excellent food each day, but if the equipment is not working properly or the customer service is lacking, the operation will not be consistently successful.”

The culinary experts who provide food services aboard the MSC’s ships are made up of Chief Stewards, Steward Cooks, Chief Cooks, Cook Bakers, 2nd Cooks, Assistant Cook, and the Supply Utility Personnel. Their daily responsibilities include food preparation, inventory management, requisitioning resupply, financial accountability, menu management, food service training, sanitation protocol, and customer service.

Jio advised MSC culinary experts striving to provide excellent food services to, “Start with excellence customer service and work to improve the program each day by providing outstanding food in a clean environment. Ensure the food service personnel are preparing the recipes as written to assure consistency of the entrees.”

“MSC culinary experts seeking additional culinary training should reach out to the N43 Food Service Team Ashore for assistance,” she added.
As Military Sealift Command Logistics Director from 1995-1998, U.S. Navy Capt. David M. Cook, made tremendous strides to improve all aspects of food service operations aboard MSC Ships.

“He was the driving force behind improved operational procedures for shipboard food service and for the Healthy Heart Program for MSC’s Civilian Mariners,” Jio concluded. “Capt. Cook, a visionary, recommended restaurant quality, advanced foods in MSC menus to improve the quality of life for MSC Crews. He instituted programs to ensure that food service personnel receive up-to-date training, maintaining the highest quality food service to the fleet.”

Originally titled the Food Service Management Excellence Award, this annual recognition was officially renamed the Captain David M. Cook Food Service Excellence Award in 2002.

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