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Mess hall cooks for competition

By Lance Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo | | October 22, 2004

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The Combat Center mess hall staff is anxious to see if their superior performance in culinary skills will gain them the reputation of serving the finest meals in the Marine Corps to the finest warriors.

On Monday the facility stood an inspection for the Maj. Gen. W.P.T. Hill Award for food service excellence, sponsored by the International Food Service Executives Association and Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England. 

IFSEA is a nonprofit food service association dedicated to improving food service quality in the Marine Corps and Navy.  The evaluation teams consist of senior Marine Corps culinary specialists and IFSEA representatives.

This year’s inspection team is comprised of three members: Maj. Richard Bedford; director, Food Service, Headquarters Marine Corps; Master Gunnery Sgt. Gregory Brown, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, East Coast Food Team; and Shane Rich, IFSEA.

The mess hall is one of the nine facilities and two field messes that will be inspected throughout the Corps.

The award, established in 1985, recognizes the commitment and hard work of the mess men who professionally prepare more than 4,000 meals per day, 365 days a year and carry on a tradition of culinary excellence in the military.

Key competition areas were management, sanitation, food preparations, administration and training.

While the inspectors took temperatures of the food on line the mess cooks hurried to prepare lunchtime meals for hundreds of Marines.

“The best way to prepare for any type of evaluation or inspection is to start with the basics, and that’s what we did,” said Gunnery Sgt. Louis A. Reese, dining facility manager. “The key is to apply all the skills that you were taught and trained to do, and you can never go wrong.”

Brown said the team evaluates the whole operation of the mess hall including manpower, but most importantly they evaluate the Marines’ performance.

“What we primarily look for is customer service, cleanliness, overall management and the infrastructure of the facility,” said Bedford.  “The Marines are what is important here. That’s why we run mess halls.  I like to wander around the facility and talk to the Marines to see how they feel about the quality of the service they receive.  So far I’m impressed.”

The Marines worked closely with the civilian employees to help the mess hall prepare for the competition. Together they strive to maintain high standards of food quality and customer service.  With 51 mess cooks operating the new facility, and nearly 51 civilian workers, the entire staff ensures each Marine and Sailor leaves with a full stomach.

“Winning the award to means a lot to the Marines and civilians here. There is true pride in the work that we do,” said Reese. “It feels good to be recognized for the hard work and effort of providing outstanding chow and a comfortable dining atmosphere for our patrons.”

Headquarters Marine Corps will notify the winners in mid-December.  A formal presentation of the awards to the winners will be made during the Joint Military and Food Service Excellence awards at the International Food Service Executives Association Conference in April.

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