Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Cole C. Pielop
PACIFIC OCEAN – Teams of culinary specialists from galleys throughout USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) competed in the ‘Best of the Mess’ cooking competition in the aft galley, Oct. 24.
The team’s dishes were judged in three categories; appearance, taste and originality. Team Aftermath, made up Culinary Specialist 1st Class David Houchins, Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Denmark Cortez, Culinary Specialist Seaman Michelle Mccray, Yeoman Seaman Justin Hewitt and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Sierra Clark, from the aft mess decks, claimed their $500 cash prize, and more importantly, the title of ‘Best of the Mess’ by a mere one point.
“Our guys in the aft galley have a lot of passion and they love to cook,” said Houchins, from Winston-Salem, N.C. “Cooking for 4,000 people and sticking to the Navy core menu can be tedious. So when opportunities like this come up, our guys get excited and put their heart and soul into cooking.”
For some Sailors, cooking runs in the family. For others, the Navy is their first taste of cooking for someone other than themselves.
“My first experience cooking was here in the Navy,” said Cortez, from Vallejo, Calif. “It’s all about the person. If you have passion in cooking and care about the people, it’s not hard to be successful in this rate.”
Members from Team Aftermath surprised the judges by putting their own Stennis-style kick on a classic holiday meal.
“Our winning plate was a turkey roast with a coffee rub,” said Cortez. “It’s a whole turkey infused with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, sugar and coffee. We dry rubbed it with olive oil and slow roasted it in the oven. That way it keeps it moist and tender.”
Using only items found on the ship, team Aftermath melted the judges hearts with their own hot brewed beverages.
“We wanted that flavor that when you’re home and it’s cold outside, you just want to sit back in front of the fireplace and watch some football and drink something warm,” said Houchins. “Our drink was a homemade pumpkin spice eggnog latte. We took eggnog and steamed it, added pumpkin spice, vanilla, white foam, and finished it up with a pumpkin drizzle on top.”
A real winner with the judges and audience was Aftermath’s twist on a classic holiday desert.
“The desert was a butterscotch pound cake,” said Cortez. “We made the white cake from scratch then added a creamy butterscotch eggnog frosting on top. It complimented the meal really well.”
“I’m really happy for the aft galley crew members,” said Houchins. “I’m really excited for my guys to come out here and win and put a little money in their pockets. Plus, I’m glad the crew members were able to come out and see what our CS’ could really do. It was a great experience and proud the aft galley could take home the win.”
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