The Coast Guard’s Culinary Team will compete at the American Culinary Federation National Convention in July after taking first place as Installation of the Year during the 46th Joint Culinary Training Exercise competition in March.
The regional competition was held at Ft. Lee, Va., and consisting of 10 teams, one from each branch of service, plus multiple U.S. Army installations, which included international competitors. Among them, the Coast Guard’s team was the standout and isn’t new to sweeping the win from the other services. The Coast Guard won Installation of the Year in 2020 and, since the competition wasn’t held in 2021, they are the consecutive winners.
This year’s team of 11 culinary specialists won the following throughout the week:
- A gold medal in the Military Pastry Chef of the Year category, Chief Petty Officer Matt Shaw;
- A gold medal in the Military Master Chef of the Year category, Petty Officer 1st Class Danielle Hughes;
- A gold medal in the Nutritional Hot Food Challenge category, Petty Officer 2nd Class Ian Swoveland and Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Mazzocoli; and
- A bronze medal in the Military Chef of the Year category, Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Plotz.
Additionally, the Coast Guard’s student team received a silver medal in the four-course competition and a silver in the Student Chef of the Year category:
- Petty Officer 3rd Class Joanni Govier,
- Petty Officer 3rd Class Micah Hetrick,
- Petty Officer 3rd Class Spencer Hooker,
- Petty Officer 3rd Class Dormburg
- Petty Officer 3rd Class Thomas Predmore (also won Student Chef of the Year).
Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Jeffries, the team’s mentor, explained that their winning streak speaks volumes about our culinary program, despite having less time to train than other services.
“It’s the best culinary program in the armed forces as far as I am concerned.” said Jeffries. “The other branches train and prepare for this completion year-round because they are coming from one installation.”
Jeffries credits Master Chief Petty Officer Matthew Simolon in making it all possible for the team to gather and train using the facilities at Training Center Yorktown, Va.
“We meet and train as a team for 10 days because everyone is coming from all over the fleet including Alaska, Washington State, and California.”
Needless to say, although short, the training to compete can be described as grueling with 10- to 12-hour days, and the competition itself is intense. The first event started with the Chef of the Year contest requiring the creation of a four-course meal with ingredients from a mystery basket. Next, the Student Chef of the Year made a signature dish, compared against all other installations, followed by the five-person student team that worked together to also create a four-course meal. Then, a two-person team composed a nutritional and balanced meal within specific calorie and fat limitations as part of the Nutritional Hot Food Challenge category. The week rounded out with Pastry Chef of the Year and the Military Master Chef of the Year contests, in which the Coast Guard clinched first place with their dishes.
“My goal was to showcase the culinary specialist rating and our talented chefs, whom I am extremely proud of,” said Chief Petty Officer Matt Shaw, this year’s team captain. “I also wanted to mentor and inspire my fellow teammates. Getting the award is honorable but the overall culinary experience that myself and the chefs have gained from joining the Coast Guard Culinary Team is invaluable.”
Shaw is no stranger to bringing his A-game to represent the Coast Guard and the culinary specialist rating. He currently cooks for the commandant, as well as manages his house and the official dinners held there for dignitaries and government officials from all over the world. “It’s a huge honor,” said Shaw.
Training Center Petaluma, Calif., was Shaw’s last duty-station assignment where, over the span of three years, he was an instructor, a class advisor, and the curriculum course chief for the culinary specialist rating. “Half of our competing student team graduated during my time at TRACEN Petaluma, so it was rewarding to see them come full circle from the A-school students I taught to the professionals they have become.”
Huges and Shaw will move on to compete against professional chefs throughout the culinary industry in Las Vegas this July at the American Culinary Federation National Convention. Bravo Zulu to the Coast Guard’s Culinary Team; the competition week can be watched via Facebook, here.