MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Marines and civilians from various bases across Marine Corps Installations West competed in the Chef of the Quarter Culinary Competition at Camp Pendleton, June 4-5.
During the first day of the competition, 10 two-man teams competed in a single elimination knowledge-bowl to test their skills on food preparation, safety, cooking techniques and procedures.
The four teams with the highest score moved on to the second day’s competition for a cook-off. The team crowned the winner earned the opportunity to attend the Culinary Institute of America located in Hyde Park, N.Y., for six weeks.
The competition gave cooks an opportunity to be creative and cook food outside of their normal recipes.
“The overall goal of the contest is to ensure we have a fair, open and honest competition that allows people to take the chains off,” said Rich Kassabian, the Sodexo district manager for Camp Pendleton, from Bowie, Md. “There’s a lot of creativity out there. There’s a lot of passion within the food service community that you can’t regularly display in the mess halls, because there are nutritional guidelines, master menus and rules and regulations. This is an opportunity for people to show what they’ve learned, apply the various training and culinary knowledge that they’ve accumulated over time and basically show of a little bit in an environment that allows complete creativity.”
Because of the creativity involved in the competition, cooks must be prepared for any situation.
“We throw stuff at them that is a little different so they really have to think and do stuff they’re not used to doing,” said Donovan Brown, the Sodexo West Coast Regional executive chef, from Washington, D.C. “These are the kind of events where I can let them step outside of the box, where I want them to get excited about what they’ve learned in the back and put on it display. This is nothing but a great competition, I’m very proud to be a part of this and everyone who helps me.”
The competition was challenging, but a memorable experience for the participants.
“It was actually pretty intense. I liked the whole atmosphere to it,” said Cpl. Freddy Cervantes, a cook with Team 2 from I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group field mess, whose team won the competition. “It feels like what you see on TV. It really has a good feeling to it, and it was fun.”