While underway conducting Carrier Qualifications in July 2013, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) hosted its third annual Iron Chef competition. Five teams representing the Flag Mess, Wardroom Mess, two from the Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Mess, and General Mess showcased their finest culinary skills.
[caption id="attachment_1330" align="alignright" width="300"]
Executive Chef Mark Bruning, San Diego Country Club, discusses meal preparation with CWO2 Andrew Johnson, CVN 76 Food Service Officer, and CSSN Ashley Simmerman. (Photo by CVN 76 Graphics Media)
The teams were given 60 minutes to prep, cook, and plate their dishes for the judges. This year’s secret ingredient, revealed just before the timer started, was pineapple. Each team found creative ways to highlight this surprise ingredient.
Guiding each team were two professional chefs flown in from San Diego to assist in the competition. Executive Chef Patrick Dahms, San Diego Bayfront Hilton, has worked with numerous chefs on two different continents, but was still impressed by the talent of the Reagan Culinary Specialists. “This was a fantastic event,” he said. “We have tried to put together an Iron Chef at the hotel but the Navy has us beat.” Executive Chef Mark Bruning from the San Diego Country Club, joining Reagan for the fifth time, noted the great teamwork that unfolded throughout the competition. “The contestants should be proud of themselves,” he said. “They really pulled together as a team.”
The teams took turns serving a panel of judges, which included Rear Adm. Patrick Hall, Commander, Carrier Strike Group NINE, and Capt. Thom Burke, Commanding Officer, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The judges scored each dish based on presentation, taste, and texture.
The decisions were difficult with a half point deciding the winner. In the end, winning by a razor thin margin, was the “Executive Squad” representing the CPO Mess. They served sautéed salmon with shrimp cakes over sautéed spinach with a pineapple mango sauce. The team consisted of CS2 Brandon Adams, CS3 Shaunice Coleman, CSSN Jorge Sanchezpriego, and OS3 Odessie Nestor.
Additionally, the guest chefs will reciprocate their experience on board by providing the Reagan Culinary Specialists with an opportunity to learn in their professional kitchens at the Hilton and San Diego Country Club.
[caption id="attachment_1329" align="alignleft" width="300"]
The “Executive Squad” comes out on top. (From L to R) CS2 Brandon Adams, OS3 Odessie Nestor, CSSN Jorge Sanchezpriego, and CS3 Shaunice Coleman, pose next to Executive Chefs Patrick Dahms and Mark Bruning. (Photo by CVN 76 Graphics Media)
The crew turned out en masse, filling the mess decks and accompanying spaces. The esprit de corps was phenomenal; the excitement reached a feverish pitch as the judges provided their thoughtful critiques. The event showcased the pride and professionalism that Reagan Culinary Specialists bring to the ship each and every day. CMDCM David Lynch summed up the feelings of the judges when he said, “Reagan has the best cooks in the Navy!”
By Lt. Andrew Haley, Aviation Support Officer, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76)