For the third year in a row, the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon has been recognized for its outstanding food service program with the annual Capt. David M. Cook award for food service excellence.
The award was presented to Yukon’s food service team by Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer, commander, Military Sealift Command, during a recent visit to San Diego.
Yukon competed with ships throughout the MSC fleet, with the ships divided into two categories based on crew size — the ships in the small ship category have crews of 75 people or less and the ships in the large ship category have crews of 75 or more people. Yukon is in the large ship category.
Ships nominated for the award go through an extensive review process conducted by Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force offices, located in Norfolk and San Diego. The ships are evaluated on things such as the ship’s financial accountability, sanitation, safety, customer service, menu planning/presentation, and crew surveys.
According to Louis DeLima, Yukon’s Chief Steward, this year’s process was different than past years. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, which prevented inspection teams from visiting the ships. This year, the review process was conducted virtually, by the ships submitting pictures of inspectable areas, logs, and interviewing with inspectors through online formats such as Microsoft Teams.
“The whole process this year was done virtually,” said Lima. “It was a little more challenging, having to take pictures of everything and to make sure everything was received through email, but we were confident we were providing everything needed, and that we represented the team the very best we could.”
Working in the COVID-19 world, offered more challenges for the food service team, than just working through the virtual food service inspection process. According to DeLima, his department, made up of five cooks and four Supply Utilities personnel, five fewer than last year, worked tirelessly to provide meals and to keep the common areas of the ship clean and sanitized. The shortage of staff meant longer hours and more duties for the slimmed down team.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the way this team stepped-up,” said Capt. Dan Glazier, Yukon’s civil service master. “They all worked extra hours, and took on other jobs. They are true professionals and their example set a standard for the whole crew.”
As Glazier and DeLima explained, 2020 was extremely challenging for the crew of Yukon, who participated in a long deployment, and through COVID-19 restrictions and limited movement off the ship. In the Navy, good food can be a morale booster, and this wasn’t lost on the crew of Yukon.
Working from the MSC meal plan and from surveys conducted among the crew, DeLima and his team daily, provided three meals and snacks. Sourcing fresh ingredients and adding special touches to the dishes, ensured the crew received high quality, flavorful meals.
“It really matters how you prepare food,” said DeLima. “Just because we are working from a set menu, doesn’t mean we can use good quality ingredients and put care into how we prepare things. You have to put some love into it.”
DeLima noted that things like fresh fruits and vegetables as well as baked fresh daily pastries are favorite supplements to meals. On Yukon favorite meals are chicken and waffles, steak and lobster, fried chicken and a variety of Asian foods including Pho which includes fresh herbs and bean sprouts sourced from local economies.
“This food service team had a higher standard than most teams out there,” said Glazier. “They really keep the crew happy. Good, quality food is huge to people who work hard. Good quality food keeps them going physically and mentally. When a crew is happy and healthy, they do good quality work.”
Keeping the ship’s galley and food service team working at top performance requires a team effort, and not just from internally. DeLima and Glazier both noted that it is an ongoing effort between DeLima, Glazier and the ship’s chief engineer. This effort includes maintaining equipment and supplies, and well as keeping open communication with the ship’s crew.
“We need to show our support to him (DeLima), so that he can do good things for the entire crew,” said Glazier.
In 2020, support came in the form of an upgraded kitchen, complete with a new stove and chill boxes, which will ensure Yukon’s Food Service Team will continue to make quality meals for years to come.
“We are moving forward, doing our work and staying focused on what we do, and what we are doing for the crew,” said DeLima.
The Captain David M. Cook Award honors MSC’s former director of logistics, Capt. David M. Cook. While serving as MSC’s logistics director from 1995 until 1998, he was instrumental in enhancing every aspect of food service operations at MSC, from training for food service staff to nutrition education for ship crews.
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