2023 Culinary Winners: Four MSC Ships Win Prestigious Award for Their Top-Notch Dishes

Photo By Ryan Carter | Norfolk, Va. (May 23, 2024)–Recently, four Military Sealift Command ships received the 2023 Captain David M. Cook Foodservice Excellence Award for their healthy meal options that offers multiple entrée choices, side dishes, and delicious desserts. The winners were honored at the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s (NRAEF) annual Military Foodservice Awards dinner and ceremony, held at the Hilton Palmer House Hotel in Chicago on May 17. MSC’s Captain David M. Cook Foodservice Excellence Award recognizes the best of the best in four categories: Winning in the Medium Afloat category was fleet replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys (T-AO 188). Dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS William McLean (T-AKE 12) won in Large Afloat, rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51) won in Small Afloat, and USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) won in Hybrid Afloat. While McLean is a first-time winner, Grasp took the honor four times in 2008, 2009, 2022, and 2023. Humphreys has won, the last three consecutive years, in 2021, 2022, and 2023. Mount Whitney has won four times in the Hybrid category in 2016, 2020, 2022, and 2023. Winning the Captain David M. Cook Foodservice Award is a prestigious honor that exemplifies excellence year-round with a steadfast dedication and commitment to outstanding customer service, said MSC Food Service Director Roberta Jio. “Winning the award feels like winning the Super Bowl. This requires excellence from all of the food service team members in the execution of meal preparation and service on a daily basis in order to get to the big game and win it all.” The Captain David M. Cook Food Service Award honors MSC's former director of logistics, Capt. David M. Cook. While serving as MSC’s director of Logistics 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. Pictured above are the fifteen members that participated in the award ceremony. The participants were MSC representatives, CIVMARS, made up of captains, chief stewards, cooks, and their spouses, and other members of MSC’s food service teams. To learn more about MSC ships, visit https://www.msc.usff.navy.mil/.

NORFOLK, VA, UNITED STATES

05.23.2024

Story by LaShawn Sykes 

USN Military Sealift Command  

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Norfolk, Va. (May 23, 2024) – Military Sealift Command (MSC) provides healthy options at each meal. It is a style of eating that usually takes place in expensive restaurants, where patrons experience excellent nutritional food choices, along with quality service. While healthy meals are served, typically, in high-end expensive Michelin star restaurants, they are also provided aboard some of MSC’s finest vessels.
Recently, four MSC ships received the 2023 Captain David M. Cook Foodservice Excellence Award for their healthy meal options that offers multiple entrée choices, side dishes, and delicious desserts. The winners were honored at the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s (NRAEF) annual Military Foodservice Awards dinner and ceremony, held at the Hilton Palmer House Hotel in Chicago on May 17.
Each year, the NRAEF honors both individuals and teams from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and MSC’s Food Service Civil Service Mariners (CIVMARS). NRAEF recognizes awardees for their commitment to foodservice excellence in management effectiveness, force readiness support, food quality, customer relations, resource conservation, training, and safety awareness.
MSC’s Captain David M. Cook Foodservice Excellence Award recognizes the best of the best in four categories: Winning in the Medium Afloat category was fleet replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys (T-AO 188). Dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS William McLean (T-AKE 12) won in Large Afloat, rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51) won in Small Afloat, and USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) won in Hybrid Afloat. While McLean is a first-time winner, Grasp took the honor four times in 2008, 2009, 2022, and 2023. Humphreys has won, the last three consecutive years, in 2021, 2022, and 2023. Mount Whitney has won four times in the Hybrid category in 2016, 2020, 2022, and 2023.
With more than twelve entries submitted, MSC ships were judged on the techniques used to create healthy options, and how those choices were incorporated into menu cycles, said Food Service Operations Manager Jerry Holley. Representing each ship at the awards ceremony were MSC representatives, CIVMARS, made up of captains, chief stewards, cooks, along with their spouses, and other members of MSC’s food service teams. Capt. Patrick T. Christian, master of USNS Joshus Humphreys, accepted the award on behalf of his vessel, stating that he was not surprised by his ship’s third win in a row. “It is a testament to the Joshua Humphreys culinary teams’ skill, professionalism, and dedication to the ship’s crew and MSC, as a whole.”
The Captain David M. Cook Food Service Award honors MSC’s former director of logistics, Capt. David M. Cook. While serving as MSC’s director of Logistics 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.
Winning the Captain David M. Cook Foodservice Award is a prestigious honor that exemplifies excellence year-round with a steadfast dedication and commitment to outstanding customer service, said MSC Food Service Director Roberta Jio. “Winning the award feels like winning the Super Bowl. This requires excellence from all of the food service team members in the execution of meal preparation and service on a daily basis in order to get to the big game and win it all.”
There is another component to serving healthy meal options aboard MSC ships, Holley said. “Because CIVMARS are the most essential ingredient to MSC operations, serving healthy meal options helps to maintain their well-being, which helps to manage their stressors, mental alertness, and cognitive performance – all of which are essential components to mission readiness, especially when CIVMARS are at sea supporting the Navy’s warfighting ships.”
The MSC 35-Day Cycle Menu, with healthy options, deployed to all 58 MSC Government Owned-Government Operated ships in 2014, Jio said. The cycle menu includes a variety of healthy, reduced fat foods that help CIVMARS lower their cholesterol levels, promote weight loss, and improve overall cardiovascular health.” The cycle menu is reviewed and revised on an annual basis.
Additionally, MSC has its very own culinary career program, Jio said. “The program provides culinary training to civil service mariners from Introduction to Food Service, Basic Culinary, Advanced Culinary, Baking Techniques, along with a Food Service Management course. MSC CIVMARS are required to successfully pass targeted courses, depending on their current position, to move up to greater responsibilities. Because MSC only operates ships, we can standardize our training to target afloat junior and senior positions. We also provide firsthand shipboard food production training to individual ships by certified executive chefs.”
This year marks MSC’s 75th anniversary. Its workforce includes approximately 6,000 CIVMARS and 1,100 contract mariners, supported by 1,500 shore staff and 1,400 active duty and reserve military personnel. If you are interested in a culinary career with Military Sealift Command, visit https://sealiftcommand.com/.

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