Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana and the Hornet’s Nest Galley hosted the 9th annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Culinary Competition Feb. 1-2. The competition gathers a total of 10, two-person teams from galleys across the Mid-Atlantic area. The event is designed to challenge their skills, competitiveness, and culinary knowledge.
“This event is a perfect way for culinary specialists across the Navy to test themselves in a competitive environment,” competition coordinator and Regional Food Service Chef, Scott Cooper said. “My job is to take various aspects of the civilian sector such as educational rubrics and professional guidelines, to not only judge these culinary specialists to a specific standard, but to help them grow professionally.”
The winner of the competition will move onto the Navy Installations Command Culinary Competition, where competition winners representing Navy regions from across the U.S. and overseas including commands in Japan, Spain and the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay will come together in a final challenge.
“This competition is an opportunity for all of us to evaluate our skill set, receive guidance, constructive criticism, and grow professionally,” Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Paul Bernardez said, from NAS Oceana’s team. “This was my second year competing. We took third place last time, and this year we took second. It’s great to be able to see what I can do, to see a finished product that I made and people enjoy.”
The commands that participated in this year’s Mid-Atlantic Culinary Competition are Naval Station Newport, Naval Station Norfolk, Submarine Base New London, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Northwest Annex, NAS Oceana, Dam Neck Annex, United States Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Region, and Great Lakes.
The two-day event starts off with teams receiving the competition guidelines, their culinary toolkits, and a list of available ingredients including mystery ingredients that must be integrated into their menu. The teams were given only one hour to design and plan their menu with the available ingredients. Their menus must include four courses; a salad or appetizer, a soup or dessert, an entrée, and a buffet dish. The second day consisted of the actual competition, judging, and awarding.
The judges for this year’s competition were navy ashore galley program manager, Karin George, Chef Patrick Kearney, and assistant director of culinary operations Goodwill Great Lakes, Chef Mike Artlip. Judges are certified Executive Chefs and certified American Culinary Federation (ACF) evaluators.
A guest Chef was also invited to judge and evaluate the teams. Celebrity Chef Jacoby Ponders, founder of FireSyde Chef & Co., who has made appearances on the Food Network Television show “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen”, and was a Culinary Specialist in the Navy.
After the last dish was sampled, the judges began tabulating their scores for the first, second and third place prizes. During the tallying, the Chefs spoke with the teams and pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of their meals.
“I really value the opportunity to talk with real professionals in the culinary world, and receive their advice,” Bernardez said. “It provides us with a window into possible career paths we can follow, and gives us more tools to accomplish our goals.”
Although all teams presented strong entries, the USNWS Yorktown team came out on top with the first place prize. NAS Oceana took second place, with Goodwill Great Lakes placing third.
One of the biggest goals of the competition is to serve as a morale booster for the culinary specialists and food managers that will spread throughout their commands and ultimately the Navy.
“We want them to go home with high spirits knowing they did something few get to do,” Cooper said. “I really hope that these Sailors go back to their commands and show their shipmates what is possible when you put your mind to something and what the world has in store for hard-working culinary specialists.”