BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 3RD CLASS JOSHUA FULTON, COMMANDER, TASK FORCE 73 PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Culinary Specialist First Class Sean Zugsmith was selected by the World Master Chefs Society to receive the World Master Chefs Diploma of Culinary Excellence in December, becoming only the fourth active-duty enlisted service member to receive the honor in the history of the Department of Defense.
The World Master Chefs Society is an internationally recognized professional association that includes some of the world’s most talented professionals in the culinary industry. Existing members recognize chefs who display exceptional talent and dedication to their craft and sponsor them as applicants to the society. After a rigorous review process, inductees are welcomed into the prestigious organization.
“Being sponsored and mentored by a Master Chef was a great honor, and that on its own would have been great,” said Zugsmith. “To actually be selected is humbling and it’s a great career milestone.”
Zugsmith is currently serving as the enlisted aide to Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific. Zugsmith has served in flag messes and special duty assignments over the course of his Navy career, utilizing his talent and passion for the culinary arts.
His dedication to the culinary arts began at the age of fifteen when he took his first job in the industry as a busboy. Having a natural curiosity for all things related to food service, Zugsmith took it upon himself to learn all the various aspects of a restaurant, laying the foundations of his culinary career by constantly seeking new knowledge and opportunities within his field.
Zugsmith carried over that unrelenting focus and applied it to his Navy career as a culinary specialist. He sought out unique positions that would allow him to distinguish himself, obtaining certification as an executive chef and serving as a board member for the American Culinary Federation, Honolulu Chapter. Zugsmith said he advises Sailors in his field to seek out opportunities and special programs that provide expanded opportunities to excel in the culinary arts. “For culinary specialists on ships who want to do stuff like this, there are opportunities,” explained Zugsmith. “You’ll be expected to work in a flag mess, become an enlisted aide, earn qualifications like the certified executive chef, and seek ways to give back to the military and civilian culinary community.”
While working at the United States Pacific Command Flag Mess, Zugsmith met Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Brandon Perry, the first active-duty service member to be recognized as a World Master Chef. Zugsmith said Perry’s mentorship was crucial in his journey to become a World Master Chef.
“The reason I am here is because I had a great mentor who never gave up on me,” Zugsmith said. “He pushed me as hard as he knew I could handle, and even a little harder from time to time. It made me a stronger, better person. I asked how I could pay him back one day, and he said to fill his shoes and do the same thing for junior Sailors. Paying it forward is how it all works out in the end.”
Zugsmith offers the following advice, given to him by Perry, to all aspiring culinary specialists seeking to advance their careers, and perhaps one day become the next World Master Chefs: “Stay true to the food, because you are only as good as your last meal.”