Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Littleton Chow Hall has won the Best of the West competition the past two years under the current general manager, Eric Cameron. This year’s win nominated them for the Maj. Gen. W.P.T Hill Award. The chow hall previously won the award in 2010 and although they didn’t win the 2011 award, they have high hopes to bring home the trophy in this year’s competition.
The Best of the West is a regional chow hall competition that recognizes the best Marine Corps chow hall in the western region. Littleton Chow Hall was nominated for the Best of the West by Maj. Richard Martinez, director of food services at the Combat Center. Their win year after year is a testament to the consistently great food and service provided by the staff.
“Just being nominated is a huge honor in itself,” said Cameron. “Our crew does a great job so it is rewarding they get this opportunity to get recognized.”
Three evaluators from Headquarters Marine Corps have traveled across America and Japan since Oct. 20 to judge every nominated chow hall for this year’s winner.
The evaluators arrived at the Combat Center Nov. 19 to inspect Littleton Chow Hall on their second to last stop before the end of the competition.
Their evaluation began from their first steps into the establishment as they assessed how they were treated upon walking in.
“Starting off, we look at how we are received, the attitude of the personnel,” said Maj. Richard Kohler, director, Marine Corps Food Service and Assistance Program, Headquarters Marine Corps.“They don’t know who I am yet. Are they happy to be here, are they not? Are they happy to see us?”
As the evaluation proceeded, the inspectors split up looking for different key points within the chow hall, ranging from management to food and service.
The meals being served on the day of the evaluation gave Marines a variety of delicious options including, BBQ ribs, macaroni and cheese, submarine sandwiches and the always popular cheese burgers and french-fries. The tantalizing aroma of the food mixed together in the air as Marines chowed down and the judges made their rounds.
The evaluators made their way through the chow hall observing everything down to their minute details, occasionally sitting down with Marines to get their opinions on the food and service year round.
“When that Marine sits down and puts that plate in front of them, would they pay for that? Would they go out into town and pay for that food? If the answer is no, something is wrong,” said Kohler. “We want Marines to come here. We want them to eat the food here and if they’re not, we want feedback of why they’re not.”
The inspection became more technical in the back of the chow hall, where all the food is cooked and prepared. They look at the labeling and storage of the food as well as supervision of the staff and the gear used in the preparation of the food.
“You make the smallest mistake, you’re chances of winning become very small,” said Kohler. “You are competing at the highest level. It could be the smallest thing. They really have to be at the top of their game.”
The winner of the award is scheduled to be announced in late December or early January. Three individuals from the winning chow hall’s command will travel to Chicago in May to receive the 3-foot-tall traveling trophy. The name of the winner will also be engraved on the trophy and displayed in their chow hall until the following year where it will be up for grabs once again.