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Fleet Week participants cook up some hot competition

By Cpl. Glen R. Springstead | | June 2, 2004

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Service members and civilians alike savored the flavors of fine military cuisine Sunday at the Best Chow Competition aboard the USS Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum here during New York City Fleet Week.

Marines, soldiers, sailors and coast guardsmen went head-to-head, putting their culinary skills to the test to win the title of Best Chow 2004 and a spot on the 'Today Show'.

"I really enjoyed this; it's been a learning experience," said Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Jefferson, culinary specialist and galley captain of the USS Halyburton. "This is my first time in a competition like this, and there's like 15 different teams so the competition is pretty stiff."

Each unit prepared their most extravagant delicacies in the categories of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Judges sampled and critiqued the flavor and presentation of the dishes.

However, tucked in among all the appealing dishes and fancily decorated tables, there was one table that stood out from the rest. Draped with a camouflaged sheet, surrounded by sandbags and flanked by a sign reading, 'Downrange cooking just like mom used to make in the bomb shelter back home,' judges knew that this could only be the work of the Marines.

Serving up field rations on paper lunch trays and displaying MREs (meals ready to eat), their chow was not prepared with the intent of winning awards, but solely to offer a look at Marine Corps life.

"We entered the contest mainly to display how Marines eat in the field," said Cpl. Quiam Woody, food service specialist, Headquarters and Service Battalion, 2nd Force Service Support Group. "We don't have fancy culinary arts schools. We cook to keep Marines alive in the field, not to win trophies and awards."

Although their chow wasn't up to par with their competitors, the Marines display and honesty was a success with the masses, according to Woody.

"A lot of judges stopped and tasted our chow, and really didn't say anything too bad; and nothing too good either," Woody said smiling. "For many, this was the first time seeing the MREs. They seemed interested and surprised that this is what we actually eat."

In the end, the sailors of the Earle, N.J.-based USS Detroit took the Best Chow title, but one might say it was the Marines who stole the show.
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