MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Cherry Point’s finest food service specialists brought the heat to compete for the coveted title of Chef of the Quarter at the Mess Hall here Thursday.
This quarter’s competitors were Lance Cpl. Timothy J. Bruce and Cpl. Fatimah R. Butler, both with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, and Lance Cpl. Rolando Castillo with Marine Wing Support Squadron 271.
Normally, the chefs have a few weeks to prepare a tasting menu, practice preparation of their dishes and put the finishing touches on their creations. Due to last-minute circumstances, Bruce stood in for a fellow Marine with only 12 hours notice to prepare for the competition.
“When I found out I had to do the competition, I was nervous because I had no idea what I was going to make,” said Bruce. “The first thing I thought to do was look in the kitchen to see what food we had that I could prepare.”
What he found inspired a sweet and spicy salmon entrée, accompanied by mashed potatoes, asparagus and key lime pie made from scratch.
Even though each of the chefs had differing amounts of prep time they all shared the same anxious feelings.
Butler said she had kinks to work out with her dishes and worked until the final moments to ensure everything came out right. The inspiration for her dishes came from her grandmother and mother, both Louisiana natives.
“My gumbo and red velvet cheesecake cake are the best of both worlds,” said Butler. “I wanted to incorporate them both into my presentation.”
A key component of the competition was who could pair the savory flavors of spices, meats, sides and sweets. The contest was very close, leaving the winner to be determined by more than flavor alone.
Winning by only a half point, Bruce’s overall food presentation, attention to detail and cleanliness in the kitchen helped secure victory over his counterparts.
“It feels good to win knowing I had less than 12 hours to prepare,” said Bruce. “Now I have bragging rights in the kitchen.”
Bruce will go on to compete in the Chef of the Year competition later this year.