The Coast Guard is calling on some of its top chefs to help recruit the next generation of culinary specialists (CS) amid ongoing shortages.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, special command aides (SCA) - the experienced culinary experts who support senior staff in high visibility assignments at the White House, Department of Homeland Security Executive Dining facility, and regional locations such as Portsmouth, Virginia and Alameda, California - will be asked to take part in at least four recruiting events a year.
These might include:
- Cooking demonstrations or recruiting presentations at local culinary, vocational, and high schools
- A CS recruiting booth at a culinary conference
- Competing in a local culinary contest representing the Coast Guard
- Other similar efforts coordinated with a recruiting office in their area of responsibility
The change comes as the service faces a shortfall of about 150 –175 culinary specialists in its enlisted ranks, according to the Culinary Services Division office. This has led to most cutters going underway with only one cook aboard and left some chefs facing repeated deployments and limited breaks. Even with the Coast Guard offering sign-on bonuses of up to $50,000, the problem persists, says Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Rohrs, SCA Program Manager.
Rohrs came up with the idea of getting SCAs involved after the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard’s (MCPOCG) recruiting challenge launched in August. He hopes that hearing SCAs talk about what’s possible as a culinary specialist in the Coast Guard will help attract applicants.
“SCAs have valuable stories and experiences to share,” said Rohrs, who recently put together a celebration dinner for the USO salute to military chefs. “They can talk about a lot of aspects of culinary service that you don’t see, like putting on high-end buffets for admirals or hosting dinners for foreign dignitaries.”
In addition, SCAs serve as subject matter experts informing recent changes that have made the rate more appealing, he notes. New lateral entry provisions, for example, allow graduates from culinary schools and other degree programs to enter the Coast Guard at a higher paygrade and essentially skip A-school allowing them to immediately start adding to the workforce.
“We’re acknowledging their course work and years of study have value,” he said.
Rohrs recently attended a recruiting event at Johnston and Wales, a high-end culinary school in Charlotte, Providence, Rhode Island, where many students expressed interest in Coast Guard careers. As a culinary school graduate himself, he gets that, since first jobs at hotels/restaurants tend to offer long hours for low pay.
“We told them about working at the White House, how you can do this higher end food prep in the service, and it was very well received,” he said. “Particularly, when you add being able to come in at a higher pay grade and some of the other benefits.”
Two SCAs at the Coast Guard Academy and two in the Pacific Area Command, have also done demonstrations at schools. Senior Chief Petty Officer Ed Fuchs, an advisor for the CS rating, agrees SCAs can be great ambassadors because of the exposure they’ve had.
“A lot of people see CS and because it’s military, they think they’re going to be a glorified lunch lady,” Fuchs said. “They don’t realize that the work we do for the Coast Guard is comparable to what real chefs would do. Once they understand we receive top notch training in classical cooking, that sparks an interest.”
To find out more about the SCA recruiting efforts, please email Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Rohrs or call (202)372-4412,