US Marines compete for food service specialist of the quarter

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alex Fairchild
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alex Fairchild

US Marines compete for food service specialist of the quarter

by Lance Cpl. Alex Fairchild
Marine Corps Installations Pacific

CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Sixteen food service specialist Marines from mess halls across Okinawa came to compete in the food service specialist of the quarter competition at the Camp Kinser Mess Hall on June 16.

The two-day competition began with a written and oral examination where Marines are judged on their military appearance, knowledge, and bearing. The second portion of the event focused on the Marines’ culinary, sanitation and nutritionary skills while under the watchful eye of quality assurance evaluators.

“The competition is designed to be stressful and bring out the best of every Marine and test them on all of the doctrine they have learned in their career,” said Gunnery Sgt. Patrick Harth, the facilities chief at base food services, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “The Marines worked in teams of two, and 10 of the 16 Marines were unable to advance past the first part of the competition, resulting in just three teams advancing to the next day. On the second day, the remaining Marines are working nonstop from 5:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. to prepare their meals and display them for the judges.”

Harth, a native of Clifton Forge, Virginia, explained that even as the competitors are standing in front of the judges, they are evaluated on tact and bearing. He said that their assessment does not end until the competition is officially over.

After hours of preparation in a stressful environment, the three remaining teams each presented their displays and a sample meal to a panel of five judges, consisting of Marine Corps Installations Pacific leaders. After tallying up scores with the judges’ and quality assurance evaluators’ input, the winners were decided.

“This was my first time competing, and I was so excited that my teammate and I placed first,” said Sgt. Morelia Capuchino-Diaz, a food service specialist with 3d Marine Division. “This competition was unlike anything I have experienced, but we communicated the entire time and got the job done.”

Capuchino-Diaz, a native of Goshen, Indiana, and her teammate, Lance Cpl. Marina Esquibel, a native of San Antonio, Texas, and a food service specialist with 3d Marine Division, prepared a colorful display in honor of pride month. The food they prepared consisted of seasoned steak, seasoned mashed cauliflower, and a cookie-dough, brownie dessert.

“The hardest part of the competition was keeping track of everything at once,” said Capuchino-Diaz. “Since we had multiple dishes to prepare, we had to keep track of what was cooking at all times to ensure it didn’t overcook, all while maintaining our military bearing and high-sanitation standards.”

The competition concluded with a small awards ceremony in which each team was presented with medals and awards from Col. Douglas Burke, the commanding officer of Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3d Marine Logistics Group. Each team was given constructive feedback and compliments from the judges.

“If you are a food service specialist hoping to compete in this competition, my best advice is to stick to and master the basics,” said Harth. “In the French language, there is a saying called ‘mise en place’ which translates to ‘everything in its place.’ This applies to culinary arts as well as this competition. Just stick to the basics, and you will succeed.”

Photo Caption:
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Marina Esquibel and Sgt. Morelia Capuchino-Diaz, food service specialists with 3d Marine Division, pose with their awards after the food service specialist of the quarter competition on Camp Kinser, Okinawa, Japan, June 16, 2021. The two-day competition began with a written and oral examination where Marines are judged on their military appearance, knowledge, and bearing. The second portion of the event focused on the Marines’ culinary, sanitation and nutritionary skills while under the watchful eye of quality assurance evaluators. Esquibel is a native of San Antonio, Texas, and Capuchino-Diaz is a native of Goshen, Indiana.

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