Marines crown best ribs, brisket during cook-off
Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan -- The aroma of succulent meat being prepared stopped those coming out of the Camp Hansen Post Exchange in their tracks. With grills blazing, meats cooking and smoke filling the air, it was clear the chefs had something to prove.
Competition was fierce as six aspiring cooks went head-to-head in the 5th annual Camp Hansen barbecue cook-off outside the Post Exchange April 27, cooking up their best brisket and ribs, hoping to be crowned the victor.
The cook-off is one of the many events coordinated by Camp Hansen’s camp operations throughout the year to give single Marines and sailors an opportunity to enjoy the afternoon with their peers and build camaraderie through friendly competition, according to Mark L. Roberts, the camp director of Camp Hansen and competitor in the cook-off.
“Seeing the Marines out here participating and those stopping to check out what we are doing is what it is all about,” said Roberts. “Events like these are for service members and their families.”
The fun was not all for the competitors, as one of the judges took particular notice of the time and effort the competitors put forth.
“Being in the food service (industry) for over 20 years, I can appreciate the time and effort that gets put into good barbecue,” said Master Sgt. Emanuel L. Walker, the manager of the III Marine Expeditionary Force mess hall, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF, and judge during the cook-off. “Around the camp, you always see Marines barbecuing with their peers, and this was a chance for them to get out here, meet new people, and enjoy some friendly competition and great food.”
For the competition, the commissary on wheels was established inside the exchange, allowing participants to purchase their meat and other ingredients and supplies needed for the cook-off. Those who were not participating in the cook-off could also shop at the commissary which, for residents of Camp Hansen, is a rare occurrence because there is no commissary located on the camp.
While competition was friendly, competitors remained focused as they attempted to take the crown away from Gunnery Sgt. Jaworski K. Cherry, the winner in 2011 and 2012.
“When I was growing up, I became interested in helping my family at a young age,” said Cherry, the administration chief with Special Operations Training Group, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF, and competitor in the cook-off. “By watching, learning and doing, I became the cook I am today. I have always enjoyed it, especially being from the South. We take our barbecue very seriously there.”
The judges rated each competitor on the meals’ presentation, texture, taste and tenderness. At the end of the day, Roberts won over the judges, taking prizes for best brisket and best overall barbecue, while Cherry extended his streak of placing in the competition to three years after winning the award for best ribs.
“I encourage Marines to come out here and participate in events like these,” said Cherry. “Your time on Okinawa will be much more fulfilling if you put yourself out there and get involved in everything you can.”