MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- Pfc. Wesley Overholtzer uses his cooking as a representation of himself. When he designs a meal, he sees more than spices and herbs, meats, sides and cutlery. He sees the ingredients as a work of art waiting to be put together.
Inspired by a friend who died in an automobile accident two years ago, the food service specialist with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 used his ingenuity and a secret ingredient to create the Jamaican-style chicken and rice combo that won the Cherry Point Chef of the Quarter competition at the Cherry Point Mess Hall Sept. 20.
“Mateo was a close friend of mine from Jamaica,” said Overholtzer. “I had grown up with him since we were 3, and he really introduced me to the food. So I guess a part of this meal was dedicated to him.”
Overholtzer arrived at Cherry Point just more than two months ago and competed against Marines who have been at the air station longer than his entire time in the Marine Corps. Still, the competition was close.
“You could tell a lot of effort was put in by all of the Marines,” said Lt. Col. Sean Killeen, commanding officer of MWSS-274 and one of three contest judges. “All three did phenomenal and it was tough to choose just one.”
Each of the Marines presented a meal from a different cultural background and designed their plates as though presenting them at a five-star restaurant. They were graded on presentation, sanitation, flavor and even their ability to chit chat.
“I was looking for flavor along with the Marine’s ability to converse,” said Master Sgt. Roberto Vasquez, a bulk fuel specialist with MWSS-274, and a contest judge. “I don’t want to just sit there and eat. I wanted to see manners along with tasting flavor.”
Overholtzer said cooking has always been one of his passions, and when he starts a new dish he sets the bar high to refine his abilities.
“This is the job I signed up for and I love it,” he said. “I’m shocked and proud of myself for winning this competition.”
Overholtzer will compete in the Chef of the Year competition Oct. 25. If he wins, he will be in the running for a chance to study at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.