MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT --
Scrambling around the mess hall, the Marines rush to put the finishing touches on their entrées. Attention to detail is crucial in this stage of cooking. The slightest mistake could mean defeat in the competition.
Three Marines competed for the title of Chef of the Quarter at the Cherry Point Mess Hall Dec. 8. Each Marine prepared an entrée and dessert matching of their themes of choice.
Pfc. Isaiah Thomas, the first place winner of the Chef of the Quarter for Dec. 8 and also a food service specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron made a chicken breast with pineapple sauce, mashed potatoes and cheesy broccoli to coincide with his Hawaiian Islands theme.
“I was relaxed throughout the competition,” said Thomas. “The time limit puts you under pressure, but I enjoy cooking. All I could really think about was ‘I hope everybody likes it.’”
Cpl. Robert Hartnett, a food service specialist with Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, placed second in the competition. His dish of choice included fajitas and rice.
“The preparation portion of this competition is definitely the hardest part,” said Hartnett. “If I cooked some of my products too soon, they wouldn’t be any good to serve so I had to get them all done today. So when I was back there, all I could think was ‘I better get this done, I better get this done.’”
Lance Cpl. Mark Hooper, a food service specialist with H&HS, made a fish and dirty rice combo. Hooper took third in the competition.
“These Marines are always very competitive,” said Sgt. Maj. Thomas Sherwood, the H&HS sergeant major. “It’s always good to see Marines perfecting their craft like these Marines today.”
The Marines were judged on their time management, presentation and taste. Each category added pressure to the Marines.
“There are a lot of different components that go into judging these Marines,” said Gunnery Sgt. Peter Jackson, a galley captain with MWSS-271. “People eat with their eyes. If the food looks like slop no one will want to try it.
“We judge on the neatness of the plate, designs, cleanliness, and what we’re wanting from them is that their presentation looks like it would be coming from a five-star restaurant.”
Across the Marine Corps Marines compete for the Chef of the Quarter. The winner of the Dec. 8 competition will compete against the two previous winners before him for a chance to study at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.
“Winning the Chef of the Quarter is like winning the Marine of the Quarter for their unit,” said Warrant Officer David Labonte. “Winning this award is very respectable, dignifying and honorable. They don’t just give this award out to anyone.”