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Face of Defense: Sailor Learns from Five-star Chef

By Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg
Submarine Group 2

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Feb. 6, 2012 – A USS California culinary specialist is honing his craft with the help of a five-star chef.

During a week-long culinary understudy opportunity that began Feb. 4 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel here, Navy Seaman Apprentice Justin Cramer of Moore, Okla., reflected on this opportunity to expand on his skills and how the training -- provided by the Santa Barbara Navy League -- will benefit his submarine's crew.

"This opportunity presents overwhelming joy to me," he said. "I was speechless when I found out, and for me, it was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I never imagined I would participate in something like this when I joined the U.S. Navy."

Patricia Westberg, vice president of Santa Barbara Navy League, said the young chef will learn techniques that will benefit not only Cramer, but also the USS California’s crew.

"He will be able to create a West Coast climate on board the boat through menu planning and selections, so the crew will have a taste of our great state several times a month," she said.

Executive Chef Luis Martinez will teach Cramer a variety of cooking-related skill sets, such as culinary arts and advanced food preparation.

"For the next three years, I will have the opportunity to apply what I learned in Santa Barbara, bringing back valuable skills to benefit myself and my boat," Cramer said.

Cramer joined the Navy at age 23 in January 2011. He said he chose the culinary specialist rating from years of experience watching his parents enjoy the art of cooking.

"We have had a generation of five-star cooks in our family; it made sense for me to come into the U.S. Navy as a culinary specialist," he said.

Navy Lt. Angus McCallum, the USS California’s supply officer, noted that with the USS California homeported in Groton, Conn., Cramer’s opportunity is a way to unite the Virginia-class nuclear submarine and the state for which it is named.

"Seaman Cramer is going to be the bridge between the recently commissioned California and the Santa Barbara community," McCallum said. "With so much of the country between the boat and the city, this first opportunity forms a tangible bond between California and [the submarine’s] home state."

McCallum added that Cramer is a valuable asset to the USS California team. Despite being the boat’s most junior culinary specialist, he said, Cramer was chosen to participate in the understudy opportunity based on his stellar performance since arriving aboard the Navy’s newest attack submarine.

"After being on board for one month, Cramer qualified in all culinary specialist watch stations, which led to the selection as the culinary specialist of the fourth quarter in 2011," McCallum added.


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