MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California --
U.S. Marines, Sgt. Erika K. Vargas and her teammate Sgt. Arianna S. Figueroa, Food Service Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force were presented with certificates of commendation for coming in 1st place in the Marine Corps Installations West Culinary Team of the Quarter competition at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, March 3rd through 4th, 2020.
MCIWEST sponsors a regional-wide culinary competition that includes all west coast garrison mess hall cooks, I Marine Expeditionary Force field messes, and Marine Corps food service offices. The intent of the competition is to boost morale, promote teamwork, provide training, and recognize excellence in food service operations while increasing the overall quality of food services provided to the Marines and Sailors. According to MCIWEST’s G4’s Food Service Director, Patrick T. Grosso. “The quarterly food service competition is a quality of life event and real “Win-Win” for all Marines in front and behind the serving lines.”
Vargas and Figueroa represented 1st MLG in the second quarter fiscal year 2020 culinary team competition. Vargas was the main force in bringing this duo together, “I knew Figueroa was very skilled in the kitchen as well and I knew she’d be fantastic on my team,” said Vargas.
Vargas is from Arlington, Texas, and first started cooking when she was 12 years old. “After my parents split, I needed to learn how to make dinner for my sisters and myself after school,” said Vargas.
Over the years, Vargas improved her craft and was mostly self-taught, although she did complete a semester of Basic Culinary at her local community college, Tarrant County College, in Fort Worth, TX, prior to earning the title of U.S. Marine.
Figueroa grew up in Washington Heights, New York, where she started cooking at the early age of five. She learned most of her skills from her grandmother.
“I would go to The Bronx, NY, to my Puerto Rican grandmother’s house and help prepare all the Puerto Rican dishes up until she unfortunately passed” said Figueroa.
When asked why she agreed to enter the competition with Vargas, she said “I know how much Vargas loves to cook and her aspirations of becoming a general’s aide convinced me that together we’d be a solid team.”
For the competition, the sergeant duo decided to prepare a full-course Chicago-themed meal. Vargas explained, “I drew the inspiration from my childhood memories of visiting family in Chicago.”
The winning dish consisted of a chicken tortilla soup with chicken pierogi appetizer, and a beef picadillo with chipotle spiced pierogi, served with a honey mint rhubarb drink as the main course. For their desert dish, the duo made fried cream cheese pierogi with strawberry guava sauce.
GySgt. Akeem J. Wright, field mess manager and operations chief, Food Service Company, CLR-17, said “they persevered multiple odds and came out victorious with their knowledge and culinary capabilities.”
Brig. Gen. Bobbi Shea references Napoleon Bonaparte during the ceremony introduction “an army marches on its stomach, it can only go as fast and it can only go the pace that those kitchens and those food service Marines are able to keep up. Well I think the talent we have with our food service Marines here at the MLG we are able to sprint into the face of any challenge that our nation asks us to.”