A professional chef instructor with the American Culinary Federation (ACF), embarked aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) as part of the Adopt-a-Ship program, to offer hands-on training to the ship's Culinary Specialists (CS), this past May.
Chef instructor Bruce Piatek, who normally teaches students at Le Cordon Bleu, volunteered to come aboard and give training on techniques vital for all CSs. "I wanted to touch on fundamentals that they might not have been exposed to in the military," Piatek said. "We covered knife skills and the preparation of different baking sauces and vinaigrettes, among other things."
With more than 100 CSs on board, Piatek tailored his training to the "basic necessities" specifically needed to successfully perform the job. "Some
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CS2 Johan Bertulano decorates a plate during the first ever "Iron Chef" competition aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (Photo by MC3 Brian Read Castillo)
things aren't applicable here but the knife skills are key," Piatek explained. "If you were to go to culinary school, that is the first thing you would learn, how to slice, dice and apply the cuts."
The Adopt-a-Ship program is a partnership between Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) and ACF that began in 1998 to provide continuing education to CSs who may not have the opportunity to experience industry practices. The voluntary program provides culinarians, chefs and cooks the opportunity to spend time aboard the ship with CSs, sharing their culinary knowledge and industry experience.
Piatek has also contributed his time and expertise to the CSs who work in the Commanding Officer's (CO) galley, focusing on more intricate skills. Culinary specialists, who work in the CO's galley, though they have the same job, focus more on the fine intricacies of the art and cuisine.
"I learned a lot and it was an extremely educational experience," said CS2 Ismael Cruz. "I have familiarity with some of the skills that we covered, so it was a great refresher course for me. We were able to focus on intricate cuts, meal presentations, and functional dish garnishes among other things."
Although Piatek wasn't able to personally work with every CS, those who did receive his training and experience said they will make every attempt to share it. "I am definitely going to pass it on," CS2 Cruz emphasized. "I will invest my time teaching them what I have learned. You don't want what you've learned to die with you."
The two-week training evolution concluded with an "iron chef" competition where several CSs faced off in the ship's forward galley. The competition consisted of five teams made up of three CSs each. Each team was required to make a four-course meal within a three-hour time limit. Piatek, along with the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Command Master Chief and Supply officer, judged the meals … with team four emerging victorious.
"It was very chaotic and fast paced, but once you see your plates begin to come together, it's cool," said CS3 Elizabeth Zannone. "Winning was nice, and the experience was definitely worth it, I feel we should hold an iron chef competition once a year."
Programs like Adopt-a-Ship, coupled with educational events like the iron chef competition, promote a better quality of food and increased morale. Quality food service and well-balanced meals are vital to providing a higher quality of life for both Sailors and Marines. The Adopt-a-Ship program falls under the blanket of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative's physical fitness component.
The 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, dividing them into five categories; readiness, safety, physical fitness, and continuum of service. One of the goals of the physical fitness category or "area," is to improve nutrition standards across facilities fleet wide and ensure that healthy food items are available at every meal.
George H.W. Bush is currently conducting training operations in the Atlantic Ocean, strengthening the Navy's forward operating and war fighting ability.
By MC3 Brian Read Castillo; USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) Public Affairs