U.S. Marines competed in the “Chef of the Year” competition at Anderson Hall, Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH), Oct. 4, 2017.
Three of the previous “Chef of the Quarter” winners competed in the competition, which was scored on a broad series of evaluations.
“To get to today, the contestants had to take a 50 question test, and then create a menu with four ingredient items,” said Staff Sgt. Christine Monroig, the assistant mess hall manager for Headquarters Battalion. “Those ingredients today were candy corn, maple syrup, bacon, and grapefruit.”
The competition is a way to foster a sense of pride in the work done by food service specialists on MCBH every day, said Monroig.
“This competition has a big effect on the Marines,” said Monroig. “Their picture is hung on the wall, so that way everyone knows that that Marine is the one food service Marine that stands out from all the cooks in the building.”
The cook-off also appeals to the nature of Marines regardless of their job fields, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Dustin Cook, the installation food service technician for Headquarters Battalion.
“Marines are competitive by nature,” said Cook. “They all think that they can out-cook each other. This is a great opportunity for a morale boost in our program by allowing the Marines to see who can put the best total package together.”
The winner of the competition was Lance Cpl. Cynthia JaretziCruz, a food service specialist with Headquarters Battalion.
“Today I made crab cakes with a grapefruit salsa,” said JaretziCruz. “Trying to figure out what to do with the candy corn was a little challenging because it isn’t an ingredient we normally use, but everything ended up going pretty well.”
JaretziCruz served bacon-wrapped asparagus, sweet potatoes, and honey-glazed chicken as her main entrée. Her themes and stylistic choices also won her favor from the judges.
“The competition was basically Halloween-themed, and you had four mystery ingredients you had to cook with.” said JaretziCruz. “You had to come up with a menu, a table display, and everything.”
JaretziCruz has the potential to continue on to other competitions at higher levels across Marine Corps Installations, Pacific (MCIPAC).
“This is the top tier for our program here in Hawaii,” said Cook. “The winner puts together a package and submits it to MCIPAC, and if they win that one, they will be submitted to Headquarters Marine Corps as a food service specialist representing MCIPAC.”
For now, JaretziCruz is happy to have her title as MCBH’s “Chef of the Year.”
“It feels good, I’m proud,” JaretziCruz said. “I’m staying humble, though. You always have to stay humble.”
Story by Lance Cpl. Luke Kuennen