Cooking with the ‘Stars’

Written by Lt. Erin Chlum

Vice Adm. Charles Ray, Coast Guard Pacific Area commander, works alongside Chief Petty Officer Kevin Ball at the cooking competition held at Training Center Petaluma on Nov. 12, 2015. The competition has been held the last three years between the Coast Guard Pacific Area commander and Atlantic Area commander to raise awareness for the work completed by Coast Guard food service specialists. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Vice Adm. Charles Ray, Coast Guard Pacific Area commander, works alongside Chief Petty Officer Kevin Ball at the cooking competition held at Training Center Petaluma on Nov. 12, 2015. The competition has been held the last three years between the Coast Guard Pacific Area commander and Atlantic Area commander to raise awareness for the work completed by Coast Guard food service specialists. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Whether serving food to a crew of 100 on a deployed Coast Guard cutter or serving food to 500 at one of the Coast Guard’s training centers, Coast Guard food service specialists spend their days preparing menus and meals for Coast Guard men and women across the country. The food serves as both nutrition, ensuring that Coast Guard members are able to carry out their daily responsibilities, and morale for the crews.

For the past three years, the Coast Guard Pacific Area commander and the Coast Guard Atlantic Area commander have come together to bring awareness to this critical Coast Guard rating and recognize the dedication of food service specialists in a unique and fun way: a cook off.

Third time was the charm for Vice Adm. Charles Ray, Coast Guard Pacific Area commander, as he and his team narrowly defeated Vice Adm. William “Dean” Lee, Coast Guard Atlantic Area commander, in the third annual cooking competition at Training Center Petaluma, California. The training center trains more than 100 food service specialists annually and served as the perfect location to host the cook off.

After proclaiming he was “pretty good with toast” at last year’s Cooking Competition, Ray, along with his team consisting of Pacific Area Command Master Chief Jason Vanderhaden, food service specialist instructor Chief Petty Officer Kevin Ball and Food Service Specialist “A” School student Seaman Apprentice Nicholas Stancil, finally took top prize this year.

Each team had 90 minutes to develop, prepare and cook a three-course meal consisting of a soup or salad, an entrée and a dessert. The contestants had full access to a stocked pantry of spices, seasonings, starches, herbs and stock bases. To make the competition a true challenge, teams were presented a mystery ingredient- acorn squash- as the contest began, which had to be incorporated into each course of their menu.

Vice Adm. William "Dean" Lee, Coast Guard Atlantic Area commander, is supervised by Seaman Zechariah Philbrook during the cooking competition held at Training Center Petaluma on Nov. 12, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Vice Adm. William “Dean” Lee, Coast Guard Atlantic Area commander, is supervised by Seaman Zechariah Philbrook during the cooking competition held at Training Center Petaluma on Nov. 12, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The two teams were required to present an appetizer to the judges within 60 minutes, an entrée within 75 minutes and a dessert within 90 minutes. This year’s panel of judges included Chef John Ash, a restaurant owner and host of a local radio show, Heather Irwin, food critic for The Press Democrat, and Chef Rachel Aronov, a local chef and former Food Service Specialist “A” School instructor.

Ball, a member of Ray’s winning team, recently graduated from the five-week Advanced Culinary Skills Training Course at Fort Lee, Virginia, and got to put his newfound skills to use in the competition.

“At Fort Lee I learned plating and design – specifically how the height, color and texture affect presentation of a dish,” Ball said. “I also learned to deal with the pressure of getting food out in very short and specific windows of times, and this definitely helped me out in the cooking competition. I look forward to sharing what I learned, especially the reasons behind the techniques we use, with our students”

This year the Coast Guard sent 48 food service specialists to advanced culinary training. In addition to 24 students who went to Fort Lee, another 24 of them attended an advanced course at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. Among those who attended was Chief Petty Officer Joshua Corbett, who joined Lee on the Coast Guard Atlantic Area team.

These opportunities along with the hands-on performance based training at the “A” School continue to strengthen the food service specialist rating.

Stancil and Seaman Zechariach Philibrick, both of whom will graduate FS “A” school on Nov. 25, 2015, had their first experience with professional judging in a high-pressure environment at the competition.

“I chose to become a Food Service Specialist because I attended culinary school and enjoyed cooking, plus with a family tradition of military service I knew I could provide better opportunities for my family by joining the Coast Guard,” Stancil said.

“I’m very proud of our students’ performance, and not at all surprised that they were able to rise to the challenge,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Kipp Rice, the Food Service Specialist School chief. “This was a great opportunity for them to demonstrate what they’ve been learning and to showcase some of their creativity and ability to think on their feet. A key part of ‘A’ school is learning how to use constructive feedback. As chefs, it is important that we can take feedback and stay humble enough to learn from it. Our instructors provide that feedback, evaluating each of their products against a defined set of quality standards.”

Below, find the menus from both teams and a video that highlights the entire competition!

Pacific Area menu:

  • Acorn Squash puree with orzo basil tomato salad with seared scallop
  • Seared Duck Breast and Acorn Squash Matignon served with a blueberry red wine reduction
  • Raspberry soufflé with acorn squash Bavarian cream

 

Atlantic Area menu:

  • Acorn Squash Apple Soup
  • Pork Tenderloin with blackberry jalapeno glaze served with acorn squash risotto
  • Acorn squash stuffed French toast

 

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