Fueled to Fight: Futenma Mess Hall Marines Cook Up Hefty Helping of Competition

Marine Corps Installations Pacific - Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan

Entrees sizzle and dishes clatter as Marines in white chef hats scurry to plate food and present it to judges who eagerly wait behind ornately decorated tables. Marines with the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Mess Hall competed in the Chef of the Month competition July 22 on MCAS Futenma. The monthly competition is an honor reserved for Marines who are performing well in the workplace and seeking opportunities to better themselves through merit boards and other events. According to Master Sgt. Anthony Gonzales, the manager of the MCAS Futenma Mess Hall, the selection process for contestants in the chef of the month competition is a strenuous one, during which Marines must demonstrate the Whole Marine Corps concept. This includes completion of all annual training courses, as well as professional military education and physical fitness tests. “Once we are confident they can perform well in the kitchen on a day-to-day basis, we hold this competition for the top three scorers,” said Gonzales, an Albuquerque, New Mexico, native. “We use this to evaluate possible nominees for Marine of the Month and Marine of the Quarter boards.” The chefs had a lot on their plates as they designed a meal plan, delegated tasks and gathered the necessary supplies. “This competition is a huge confidence booster, because there’s more individuality and you have to take care of your own product without anyone telling you what to do,” said Pfc. Moises Plascencia, a food service specialist assigned to the Futenma Mess Hall. “From start to finish, the product is yours. You have to delegate tasks and work with the Marine on your team to make sure he or she is doing what they are supposed to be doing. It really helps prepare us for leadership roles in the future.” As the final event of the competition began, two teams of two Marines presented competing meals of mouthwatering courses to a panel of judges made up of senior enlisted Marines from commands across Okinawa. “This is my first time judging this competition,” said Sgt. Maj. Misitupa Tueichi, the sergeant major of Marine Aircraft Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Especially considering how young they are, their presentation of everything was outstanding. I love the pride they took in everything they made. They support their fellow warriors here on Okinawa well, and even though sometimes what they do is overlooked by some, everyone stands to benefit from their hard work and dedication.” As the judges dug into each course, the competing Marines explained the process of preparing each dish, what made it original, and why they chose to present each item. The judges listened intently and jotted down notes for scoring based on taste, appearance, originality and the Marines’ oral presentations. “My Marines’ work ethic was deeply reflected in the meals they prepared,” said Gonzales. “This competition is instrumental in building their confidence and professionalism and we look forward to seeing it take them places.” According to Gonzales, mess hall managers across Okinawa plan to host these competitions throughout MCIPAC and nominate Marines to compete at a higher level – possibly at an international level, with not only Marine Corps counterparts, but also Army, Air Force and Navy food service specialists across the globe. “This serves as a great potential stepping stone for many Marines’ careers,” said Gonzales. “With continued hard work and dedication, they could very well cook for generals or other high level Marine Corps leadership. There are a lot of growth opportunities with this competition and we hope to see it take our Marines to the next level with the support of MCIPAC.” The Marine contestants exited to allow the judges to complete the final scoring and give their final remarks to Gonzales, who officiated the competition. “The Marines worked very hard to prepare these meals and present them with confidence and professionalism,” said Tueichi, an American Samoa, native. “After having breakfast here yesterday and then judging this competition today, I can see that while they still have much to learn, their passion for their job is outstanding. Everything they prepared impressed me.” Marines re-entered before the panel of judges to receive awards as they smiled and posed for photos with the judges before departing the competition area. “Today’s competition went well,” said Plascencia, a Modesto, California, native and member of the winning team. “I used some ideas for the meal we prepared from food I remember from home. I’m happy I got to bring something to the table that reminds me of where I come from and share it with everyone. It’s not very often I get to personally share something so close to my heart … to serve up a little bit of home.”

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