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Face of Defense: Culinary Competition Challenges Chefs

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alejandro Bedoya
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., June 6, 2014 – The aroma of chicken filled the kitchen here as the chefs hustled around the galley attempting to complete their menu before time was up. One by one they brought their dishes out to a buffet setting in front of candle-lit tables.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Cpl. Melvin R. Banuelos prepares his Greek-style pizzas during the Chef of the Quarter Competition at Phelps Mess Hall, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palm, Calif., June 4, 2014. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ali Azimi

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Each team set a couple of plates aside and added last-minute touches to the presentation. The judges took their seats at the head of the room as the first team anxiously waited to be called upon.

Combat Center Marine and civilian chefs fired up their grills and competed in a Chef of the Quarter Competition at Phelps Mess Hall, June 3-4. The chefs were tested in three different aspects of culinary arts.

“This competition gives the chefs a chance to prove their skills,” said John Rocha, Sodexo Government Services. Judges observe if the food is prepared safely and in a timely manner, Rocha added.

“The toughest part of the competition, for me, was the time limit,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kenneth Martin, food service specialist, Phelps Mess Hall. “Everything seemed so fast. People were scrambling around like crazy trying to meet the deadline.”

All chefs were given the same ingredients to choose from and were instructed to make an appetizer, entrée and dessert. The two main foods that were required to be used by each team were pizza and chicken wings.

The dishes were judged on multiple factors, including taste, presentation and an explanation of how it was prepared and how the ingredients were utilized.

“The competition was a lot of fun but it was also nerve-racking,” Martin said. “You don’t know what to expect. You just do your best to make the food and hope people enjoy it.”

The winners of the Chef of the Quarter Competition were Marine Corps Cpl. Melvin Banuelos, food service specialist, Phelps Mess Hall, and Martin.

“We got to showcase our skills and get away from what we do every day at the chow hall,” Banuelos said. “We cook en masse for the chow hall, but today we had to pay attention to the flavor, presentation, and actually had to create a menu of what we were going to serve. We got to use our creative side and it feels good to come out on top.”


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