Competition cultivates creativity
CAMP KINSER, Okinawa, Japan -- As Marines filed into the mess hall for lunch, some noticed tables lined with elaborate displays featuring carved pumpkins and eloquently prepared meals, indicating their taste buds were in for a pleasant surprise.
The display was part of the Camp Kinser Mess Hall's food service specialist of the quarter competition at Camp Kinser Oct. 4.
The competition allowed the food service Marines to showcase their culinary skills, according to Gunnery Sgt. Ricardo A. Contreras, manager, Camp Kinser Mess Hall.
"One thing we want to do is to take the winners from the quarterly competitions and send them to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York," said Contreras. "This is something the Marines are striving for because it is an excellent school and an awesome experience.
"There are four two-man teams, one from each platoon of Food Service Company," added Contreras. "(They) prepare a meat, starch, vegetable and pastry. They have four hours to prepare their meals and make a plate presentation for the judges. (Their meals are) judged on taste and presentation."
The cooks were allowed to prepare any dish of their choice for the competition.
"This competition provides us with the opportunity to really cut loose and get creative with what we want to make," said Lance Cpl. Jonathon M. Sanow, a food service specialist with Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. "The competition is highly competitive. We all work with and know each other, and many of (us) have the competitive spirit to put out an excellent dish.
"The only limit we had for this competition in regards to what we could prepare was (being) able to find the ingredients," Sanow continued. "If we could find the food at the mess hall or the commissary, we were allowed to incorporate it into our meal and presentation."
The command staff for 3rd MLG served as judges for the competition.
"The military runs on its stomach, and our Marines enjoy their food," said Brig. Gen. Niel E. Nelson, 3rd MLG commanding general. "It showed us the ability of our Marines to be creative and put together a series of dishes that both compliment their talents and allow us to have a flavorful experience. I hated not being able to eat everything they had prepared for us."
In the end, Sanow and his teammate Lance Cpl. Rachel A. Jurado won the competition with their surf and turf dinner.
"We put a lot of emphasis on taking pride in what we prepare," said Contreras. "Our title is food service specialist. We are here to provide a service to the Marines, sailors and patrons, so we want to make sure it tastes good. If the cooks put their name in front of the products, they will take more pride in it."