USS Mobile Bay: Fostering Friendly Competition

BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 2ND CLASS RYAN J. BATCHELDER

The three teams of finalists for USS Mobile Bay’s Iron Ch ef Competition. CS3(AW) Donnie Webber with Team ‘Webber’s Electricians’, CSSN(SW) James Green with ‘Team Money’ and CSC (IDW/AW)  Thomas Dennis with Team ‘Anchor Up’. ‘Anchor Up’ won this final round.

The three teams of finalists for USS Mobile Bay’s Iron Chef Competition. CS3(AW) Donnie Webber with Team ‘Webber’s Electricians’, CSSN(SW) James Green with ‘Team Money’ and CSC (IDW/AW) Thomas Dennis with Team ‘Anchor Up’. ‘Anchor Up’ won this final round.

The clock strikes 1700 and in an instant, pans are being heated, seasonings are being prepped, and meat is on the grill, with the expectation that there will be a complete, single-plate meal in front of a panel of judges within 45 minutes.

A team of five junior Sailors and a team of five senior Sailors competed against each other in the first round of an ‘Iron Chef’ competition aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), April 8.

The competition was the brainchild of Culinary Specialist (CS) 1st Class Ricardo Ortega-Flores, food service (S-2) division leading petty officer. After gaining an extensive culinary background across many duty stations, and coming off a gold medal win last year at the Culinary Arts Competition held at Fort Lee, Virginia, Ortega-Flores was looking for a way to boost the morale of his division and the ship.

“We wanted a fun way to break up the day-to-day routine of deployment,” said Ortega-Flores. “As a division, we’ve been given a lot of creative freedom onboard the ship and this is one of the ways that we can showcase our team and their talents.”

As the grills heated up, participants jockeyed around one another as they quickly tried to bring the ingredients together. The grading criteria was based on appearance, flavor, consistency and originality. For Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Galvan, the competition was a chance to lead the junior team as the subject matter expert (SME) in the galley and vie for the all-important bragging rights.

Cmdr. Lynn Hazlett, executive officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), samples a dish during an ‘Iron Chef competition. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Mobile Bay is operating as part of the John C. Stennis Strike Group and Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.

Cmdr. Lynn Hazlett, executive officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), samples a dish during an ‘Iron Chef competition. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Mobile Bay is operating as part of the John C. Stennis Strike Group and Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.

“We have great aptitude for what we do, but trying to prepare, cook, and present an entire meal in that amount of time was insane,” said Galvan. “When cooking, especially for a competition like this, it’s important to take your time, but not take all the time in the world.”

The teams were allowed to use any herbs and spices that S-2 division had on board, but in true ‘Iron Chef’ fashion, the teams also had to cook with a secret ingredient revealed at the start of the challenge. Chief Culinary Specialist Thomas Dennis, S-2 leading chief petty officer and the senior team SME, was excited about bok choy being the first secret ingredient.

“Our team made a dish that we called ‘around the world,’” said Dennis. “It was inspired from the places we’ve been to on deployment: Hawaii, Guam and South Korea.”

Culinary Specialist 1st Class Ricardo Ortega-Flores, fills out a scorecard during an ‘Iron Chef’ competition aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53).

Culinary Specialist 1st Class Ricardo Ortega-Flores, fills out a scorecard during an ‘Iron Chef’ competition aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53).

As time expired, the weary participants put the final touches on their creations and presented them to a panel of judges made up of the ship’s commanding officer, executive officer, command master chief, and Ortega-Flores. Finally, a randomly selected audience member – Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Travis Blaksley, sat down and took his place among the judges.

“It’s awesome to get an opportunity to sit down and try some original cooking that people have put a lot of effort into,” said Blaksley. “Both team entries were really good, but in the end, we gave the nod to the team of anchors.”

Everything was meticulously presented and both teams worked down to the wire. The winning dish was a barbecued pineapple and shrimp wrap with marinated chicken over a bok choy and cauliflower mash.

“An event like this in the middle of deployment rejuvenates Sailors and helps them come together as a team to do and make something special,” said Dennis. “It was a very good turnout and I think it was well received. It was nice coming out on top, but in the end, the winner was decided by only four points.”

Handshakes and pats on the back were exchanged after the winner was announced, bringing an end to the first in a series of kitchen clashes. As the sun set on another day of deployment, it was clear that the bar was set high for the next round of Mobile Bay ‘Iron Chef.’

Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Mobile Bay is operating as part of the John C. Stennis Strike Group and Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.

July/August 2016