Twentynine Palms -- Marine and civilian food service specialists cooked up some healthy competition during the Sodexo government services-sponsored Chef of the Quarter competition at Phelps Mess Hall, Sept. 20 and 21, 2016.
“Today is a culmination of efforts on both the Marine side and the civilian side,” said John Rocca, senior brand manager of culinary, Sodexo. “This competition encompasses both the Marine and the civilian cooks in this environment, which is unique as far as food service goes because there are a lot of restrictions.”
On the first day of the event, which is held quarterly, four two-chef teams completed a written test and trivia. The groups were assessed on their knowledge of physical safety and the technical aspects of cooking. Only the top three teams advanced to the second day to compete in the cook-off, where they were expected to whip up unique creations incorporating the ingredients given to them.
“We give each team a mystery basket containing ingredients they must use,” Rocca said. “They’re allowed to use anything else in the kitchen, but they have to incorporate what we give them into their dishes so that they can cook with things they’re not accustomed to cooking with.”
On the second day, each team presented an appetizer, main course and dessert to a panel of four judges. Each team was judged on food quality and aesthetic and physical appeal of their dishes, as well as the team’s food safety in the kitchen. This quarter, Cpl. Darius Hanson and Lance Cpl. Kenneth Martin, food service specialists, Headquarters Battalion, took first place with both people’s choice and chef’s choice.
“I feel very proud about myself and my teammate’s success,” Hanson said. “If you do proper prior planning, the competition is not as challenging. For Marines and civilians everything we’ve learned in the galley comes to light when we do events like this.”