With the sweet aroma of mushroom soup and grilled shrimp in the air, chefs from all branches of the military competed at the 7th annual Military Culinary Competition on the streets of the nation’s capital Sept. 25.
Each team receives a mystery box full of ingredients and a time limit to create the most delicious and visually appealing creations possible. From the 14 teams competing in the preliminary round, the top six advance and repeat this challenge with a new mystery box.
The winning team receives $1,000 and a certificate to attend a Department of Defense culinary course.
“Having a competition to allow military chefs to compete shows the public that we don’t just slop food on a tray,” said Master Sgt. Michael Meyers, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Marine aide program. “It shows them that we really have skills.”
With a wide variety of talent and team experience, the Marines must work together and think quickly on their feet.
“It’s a challenge as soon as you get that mystery basket and have to put together the menu,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Hughes, a Marine aide with Headquarters Marine Corps. “Being able to visualize a finishing product when it comes down to the last few seconds puts your culinary skills to the test.”
Four aides stationed at various locations throughout the Corps made up the Marine team.
“These Marines work for general officers in their quarters as their personal chef and household manager,” Meyers said.
The Marines participating in the cook-off included Gunnery Sgt. Andrew Atkinson, a Marine aide for Gen. James Mattis, Central Command commanding general. Atkinson was recently selected for the White House messing staff - the first Marine ever chosen for this position.
The annual event not only allows Marine chefs to compete, but also brings public awareness to the possibilities of advancement and special billets as a culinary specialist in the military.
“We can now tell a young kid there’s a path to come in the Marine Corps and work in the White House as a chef,” Meyers said. “You can’t get any better than that.”
The final results:
1st - (Navy) Naval Support Activity, Washington, DC
2nd - (Coast Guard) Secretary of Homeland Security
3rd - (Air Force) Secretary of the Air Force Dining Room