Archives for category: Food Service


Story by MC2 Kathleen O’Keefe
Photo by MC3 Will Tyndall

Every Sailor in the bake shop gathered around a mixer filled with all the ingredients needed to make bread dough. The difference between this dough and all the others made before it is that Certified Master Baker Chef Leslie Bilderback got her hands on it and showed everyone who would listen the secret that turns regular bread dough into a buttery and flaky confection.

Whether she’ll be giving training about bread dough or the proper way to wield a knife, Bilderback will spend a little more than a week aboard Stennis reviewing fundamentals and teaching new techniques and recipes to Stennis’ culinary specialists.

“This is an incredible training ground for aspiring chefs,” said Bilderback. “Sailors have this great work ethic and discipline that a lot of civilians don’t have. This is a unique opportunity that I am so privileged to be a part of.”

During her stay Bilderback will hold training seminars as well as one-on-one training sessions with members of each galley. Some training sessions are geared toward subjects cooks need to work on, but others are driven by things they are interested in learning. “I watch the chefs and assess what things they are doing well and what things they need to work on,” said Bilderback. “They face a lot of challenges that they don’t necessarily have a lot of control over, but we focus on the things we can make better.”

Culinary Specialist Seaman Lindsey Ocampo said the training is helping her perfect her techniques.

“Most of the things she is teaching us about are things I’ve done before, but now I’m learning how to do it the right way,” said Ocampo.

“I’m very excited to learn more in the next few days.”

Bilderback believes proper training can make the job of cooking for 5,000 Sailors a less daunting task.

“The people who want to be in the galley are very easy to motivate and teach, but the challenge is reaching the people that have to be there,” said Bilderback. “I believe that if you give people more control and more understanding about the work they have to do it’s going to make the job less tedious.”

Bilderback has been working with the United States Navy for about five years, traveling to both ships and bases and passing on her knowledge. Though she spent ten years teaching in culinary schools the influx of students over the years made one on one teaching almost impossible. Now when she isn’t working on one of her books, she really enjoys the time she gets to spend with Sailors teaching cooking in a friendly and hands-on atmosphere.

“You can’t sit in a lecture hall and teach cooking,” said Bilderback. “You need that one-on-one time with students to really help them develop into good cooks. I like teaching Sailors because I get time with them that makes them better at their jobs.”

Bilderback said that she had a feeling that working aboard Stennis would be a good experience.

“Almost every ship’s galley is laid out the same way, but the people are always different,” said Bilderback. “I knew this was going to be a good location to work in because the senior leaders are so organized and the junior Sailors have been so enthusiastic, nice and welcoming.”

The ship plans to mark the end of Bilderback’s visit with an Iron Chef competition where they can use the skills they’ve attained in a competitive, yet friendly, atmosphere.

Until then, Stennis’ Culinary Specialists will spend the next few days soaking up as much culinary knowledge as they can while also enjoying the experience.

“She can teach us about more than just baking,” said Ocampo. “She knows a lot about cooking, preparing salads and many other things. A lot of us are really looking forward to this experience and at the end of the day, it’s just cool to be working with and learning from a master baker.”

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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.

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