Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathleen O’keefe
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

Past the procession of hungry Sailors, behind the serving line and deep inside the galley, an orchestra of food preparation occurs every day. Hot ovens dole out warm dishes while culinary specialists (CS) slice, dice and serve nourishing meals to personnel every day.

Though cooking a meal for thousands of Sailors isn’t an easy task, Stennis’ CSs make it look like a piece of cake.

Each day CSs reference scheduled meal plans prearranged by the Navy Food Management Team. When the actual meal preparations begin, CSs utilize recipe cards, which are fleet-wide standard cooking instructions. Whether the dish is broccoli or chocolate chip cookies, a recipe card exists containing instructions for preparation, nutritional information, ingredients and internal temperature specifications.

“We have recipe cards because the Navy has done tests and found the right way to cook our food,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Donald Brazier. “They tell us how to make the food pleasant and safe to eat.”

Recipe cards contain the necessary information to make 100 servings of a particular dish, and conversions must be made to make enough food to feed the entire ship.

When CSs make too much food or too little, it is logged in a computer system which then averages the amount of a particular product consumed. That number makes its way to the food preparation worksheet that arranges how many portions of food will be prepared in the future.

Despite proper planning, sometimes more people eat a certain food than the worksheet estimates and more dishes need to be prepared on the fly.

“I’d say the galley can be one of the craziest places on this ship,” said Culinary Specialist Seaman Andy Rodriguez. “Sometimes there is enough food and sometimes we are running and scrambling to make sure people have enough to eat. We work as a team to get the job done and everyone here is good at what they do.”

When meal hours end, CSs must also maintain a strict cleaning regimen. For sanitary purposes, galleys are scrubbed clean before and after every meal. Plates, pots, pans, glasses and silverware are carefully arranged so they do not gather dust.

“It can be very stressful in the galley because we are always cooking and cleaning,” said Brazier. “Despite the stress, I want to make sure that a tired and dirty Sailor coming off the flight deck has a good meal in him before he hits his rack. It gives me personal satisfaction knowing I make a difference.”

Just as JP-5 fuels a jet and nuclear propulsion powers the ship, CSs make sure the crew is fueled up and ready to take on another day at sea.