Davy Jones' Kitchen
USS Bataan (LHD 5) - At Sea
Though the scene might be similar on an average day in the galley, this particular evening aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan the Combat Cooking Competition took over April 20. “This competition gives them an ability to show their skill sets and do something different,” said Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Townsend, the ship’s food services officer. “It’s easy to get caught up in doing the same thing every day out here for them. It was good to shock them and show them a situation where they don’t know what to expect.” Three teams of three were a mix of Sailors and Marines of the Bataan’s culinary specialists and the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit food service specialists. Each member volunteered to be a part of the event and test their talent in a public forum. “They asked who wanted to do it and we all just raised our hands,” said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Christine Stenger. “They sorted us into teams with at least one senior cook so it would be balanced.” The competition had three rounds: appetizers, entrees, and desserts respectively. Each team was given a box of mystery ingredients to be used in each round along with whatever they had available in the galley. “It was great to have the open pantry and use the walk-in freezer,” said Stenger. “A lot of the ingredients in the boxes were difficult to include in every plate without the added variety.” Creativity would be key for the victors, as the mystery ingredients ranged from brussel sprouts and scallops to jars of cherries and cucumbers. As facilitators counted down the time the cooks rush to plate their dishes. Sweat glistens on their foreheads while they ran the food out of the galley and through the crowd gathered on the mess decks. Finally contestants look on as the judges sample their dishes. Watching their reactions to each bite and waiting for the moment of truth. In the end only one team would win. “Of course there can only be one winner, but I think they all did really well with the stuff they had to work with,” said Townsend. “The crowd got really big as the competition went on. I think we’ll definitely be doing more of these in the future.” The winners walked away with a day off work during the ship’s next port visit and bragging rights until the next competition. The Bataan its ready group are deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.