Marines on Okinawa Heat Up as they Compete to be the Best: The Food Service Specialist of the Quarte

Marine Corps Installations Pacific - Okinawa, Japan

As stomachs growled and the air smelled like heaven, Marine food service specialists made final preparations and rushed to present their foods to judges who couldn’t wait to dig into their entrèes.

Marines with Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan took part in the food service specialist of the quarter competition Oct. 25-26 on Camp Kinser.

The quarterly competition is an honor reserved for only the most qualified food service Marines, who have proven themselves in food service excellence.

The selection process for the contestants of the quarter competition is a strenuous one, according to Master Sgt. Maria E. Florentino, a food service operations chief with Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCIPAC. “We allow only the most qualified and motivated Marines to participate,” said Florentino. “They must have a passing physical fitness test and combat fitness test, proficiency and conduct marks average of at least 4.2/4.2, and other prerequisites before they can compete.”

On the first day, the Marines were evaluated in two events, an oral and written examination, which evaluated the Marines’ bearing, tact, military appearance and knowledge. Only the top three Marines advanced after the written test.

The second day began with menu development, where the three Marines had to creat their recipes, using six mystery items that were preselected for them. Once each menu had been approved, the Marines were allowed to mise en place.

The Marines learned a lot from the difficult, but rewarding competition, according to Cpl. Jody Scott, a food service specialist assigned to the Camp Foster Mess Hall, MCIPAC.

“This competition really shows you what you are capable of,” said Scott. “I’m competing against other top-of-the-line Marines and it is not easy. My assistant chef and I had to be on our toes the entire time to encure we are more creative and one step ahead of the competition. ”

As the final event of the competition began, it was time for the Marines to demonstrate their culinary skills. The three Marines and their assistants cooked and presented mouthwatering meals to a panel of judges made up of officers and senior enlisted Marines from commands across Okinawa.

“The Marines did a fantastic job today,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Louis A. Reese, the food technician for 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “The mystery basket was a curve ball, but all of them managed to use their creativity to make something delicious.”

As the judges dug into each course, they asked the Marines questions and scored the Marines’ items based on taste, appearance, creativity and table display.

“This competition allows the Marines to go out there and shine,” said Reese. “It shows everyone who comes to the mess hall what they can do, what they are capable of, and it shows their creativity. It allows them to be the best that they can be.”

The Marines re-entered the judging area after the judges were done making their final decisions, and selected the food service specialist of the quarter, Cpl. Jody Scott.

“I feel like I have proven something; I can actually cook more than just the usual mess hall routine,” said Scott “I was very confident in the dishes that I prepared and I didn’t let anything hold me back.”

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