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Cpl. Jacob R. Ballard, 21, Coventry, Rhode Island, and Pfc. Ja?Lisa C. White, 19, Dallas, both from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, show their first place medals and plaque at the Culinary Team of the Quarter Competition here Feb. 25. The competition had a Mardi Gras celebration theme and each team had to prepare a full-course meal while maintaining that theme. The winners were awarded embroidered chef?s coats, gold medals, a plaque and a two-week trip to the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Marine Corps Air Station Yuma?s team came in first place and the team from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms came in second.

Photo by 1ST MLG

Yuma tops culinary competition

25 Feb 2009 | Pfc. Jerrick J. Griffin

Four teams entered, but only one survived in the Culinary Team of the Quarter competition for Marine Corps Installations West.  

The culinary team from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma came in first place for the competition at the Las Pulgas Mess Hall here Feb. 25.

Cpl. Jacob R. Ballard and Pfc. Ja’Lisa C. White, food service specialists from MCAS Yuma, won first place with their winning meal of Finger Shrimp Po Boy’s, Jammin’ Jambalaya, Cajun Fried Okra Tempura with Scallion sauce and Chocolate Crepes with fresh strawberries.

“I could already tell the competition would be very hard,” said Ballard about the 11 Marine and civilian teams from Bridgeport, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and Camp Pendleton.

“This is an incredible partnership that we have between the Marine Corps and Sodexo,” said Donovan Brown, the regional executive chef for Sodexo. “This competition brings us all together because our motto is one team, one fight. The bottom line is taking care of Marines.” 

The competition started with a knowledge portion, consisting of the teams answering 60 culinary questions. Everything was put on the board, including food temperature, portion control, safety, menus, rules and sanitation standards.   

“These are tasks you use on a day to day basis,” Brown stated to the competitors of the event. “There's no study guide; your study guide is showing up to work.” 

After the knowledge bowl, the four teams with the most points advanced to the cook-off portion of the event. Marines from Yuma, Ariz., Twentynine Palms, Calif. and two teams of Sodexo workers from the 53 and 22 Area Mess Halls advanced to the next round.  

In past quarters, there have been Thanksgiving and Super Bowl party themes, so they had to be prepared for anything. This quarter’s theme was Cajun Creole, a Mardi Gras celebration theme.

The contestants were given a list of ingredients and had to prepare a menu for a full course meal while staying within the Mardi Gras theme.

After receiving the theme on short notice and having limited time to prepare a menu, they had to work in an unfamiliar environment.

“It's a challenge to walk into a kitchen you've never been in before,” Brown said. “Not only did the participants have to get adjusted to new settings, they also worked right next to the current staff in charge of feeding the Marines their regular meals.”

“It was very difficult trying to get things done with all the other people in the kitchen,” said Brenda Delgado, a Sodexo worker from the 53 Area Mess Hall. “Even with the crowded kitchen, we managed to push through and prepare our meal on time.”

Toward the end of the cook off, the participants displayed their dishes and the judges sampled each team’s entrée.

“I like (the competition); it's good for the Marines and Civilians to grow and it gives them something to look forward to,” said Debbie Powell, the production manager for 22 area and a judge during the competition. 

Ballard and White received a plaque to display in their unit’s mess hall, embroidered chef’s coats, gold medals and a two-week trip to the Culinary Institute of America in New York City.

“It feels good to win the competition,” Ballard said. “I am very excited to go to the (Culinary Institute of America).”

Sgt. Brian D. Carrier, a quality assurance evaluator, and Cpl. Austin J. Nelson, a food service specialist, both with Marine Corps Air Ground Command Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., came in second place for their Andorille stuffed mushrooms, Shrimp Etoruffee with steamed rice, Stuffed Pork loin with Andorille cream cheese and oven roasted tomato sauce, southern style collard greens, candied yams and Sweet Beignets with strawberry sauce. 

They also received Chef’s choice and peoples’ choice trophies. Chef’s choice was judged before the food was sampled and was based on which team had the most challenging menu. Peoples’ choice was a popular vote of whose meal appealed to the audience’s taste.    

“I still feel happy with the way I performed,” said Nelson. “I would like to get first place, but second place isn’t bad.”

Coming in third place was 22 Area Mess Hall and fourth place was 53 Area Mess Hall.

To most of the competitors cooking is not just a job.

“Cooking has always been a love of mine,” Carrier said. “It’s something I really enjoy.”

The first place winners of the competition will also have their menu featured at their unit’s mess hall to serve to the Marines in the near future.


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