Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point --
If you think about Marine Corps cooks, you will probably imagine a slew of Marines serving hot plates of food to their fellow service members; but this is just a small portion of what these warfighters do on a daily basis, and just like any other devil dog, they thrive on competition.
As the sun rose on Oct. 19, four food service specialist Marines were already hard at work in the kitchen of the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, mess hall. Getting to their cooking stations before 5 a.m. that Friday morning, these Marines began preparing, what they hoped to be, the winning combination of food to claim the title of MCAS Cherry Point’s 2018 Chef of the Year.
The Chef of the Year competition highlights four previous Chef of the Quarter winning cooks vying for the overall title. But the real test for any serious cook whether people enjoy the food that they work so hard to prepare. Each brings a different set of skills and experience to the table to be tasted and judged – you can’t fake good food. As for the trophy, well, that’s just icing on the cake.
In the kitchen, anxious competitors rush from station to station as they prepared meals they would serve to a panel of four judges. These judges would critique the chefs on a number of different categories ranging from service, to presentation, and to taste – each score just as important as the last.
One by one the chefs presented their food to the judges and one by one they were awarded with both compliments and criticisms. No matter who would win, the Marines would walk out of the mess hall with a better understanding of what they excel at and what they need to improve upon in their military occupational specialty.
After completion of the presentations, competitors returned to the dining area where they stood behind their respective tables, each awaiting the final results and who would claim the sought-after title of Chef of the Year.
Col. Todd Ferry, commanding officer of MCAS Cherry Point; and visiting dignitaries Dennis Barber, mayor of Newport, N.C.; and William Lewis, mayor of Havelock, N.C., presented the contestants with their awards and placings. Sgt. Robert Winston took fourth place, Cpl. Pedruna Adams took third, Lance Cpl. Adriel Merejo placed second and Sgt. Marisela Syliphone took the first place trophy and earned the coveted title, “Chef of the Year.” Because of her performance during the competition, Syliphone was also awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal by Ferry.
Syliphone had her own trials and challenges leading up to her winning the event.
“It feels amazing winning Chef of the Year,” Syliphone said. “Everything bad that could happen to me [during preparation], went bad. At one point I wanted to give up, but then I tried again and finally succeeded.”
Syliphone had plenty of reasons to want to win the competition, but her husband was her driving force because he was a prior Chef of the Year winner.
“Since my husband could do it, I could do it too,” said Syliphone. “Anything he does, I can do it better.”
The new Chef of the Year is happy to have influenced her fellow food service Marines to compete in future culinary competitions.
“A lot of Marines saw what I did today and they want to do the next Chef of the Quarter,” said Syliphone. “They’re like, ‘I want to do what you did.’ They want to have [improvisations] and they are thinking outside the box.”
No matter the results of this competition, all the competitors walked away with a few more ingredients for a recipe for success.