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July 26, 2012

Station chefs savor culinary school lessons

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Story and photos by Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison
Desert Warrior Staff
CulinaryDrew
Cpl. Brandyn Drew, a food service specialist and a native of Loxahatchee, Fla., prepares a lunch item for hungry Marines at the station galley, July 24. Drew, with other service members, attended the Culinary Institute of America for a five-week cooking course meant to sharpen his skills in the kitchen.

It’s commonplace for Marines to further their education within their primary military occupational specialties. What isn’t common is when training is in New York alongside accomplished chefs.

Every year, the Culinary Institute of America, a highly accredited culinary college, accepts Marines and other service members into a consolidated cooking program meant to increase the chefs’ abilities in the kitchen.

MCAS Yuma’s two most recent attendees are food service specialists Cpl. Brandyn Drew, a native of Loxahatchee, Fla., and Lance Cpl. Dara Smith, a native of Sacramento, Calif.

Drew and Smith traveled to Hyde Park, N.Y., for five weeks to expand their cooking repertoire.

“The basic food service Marine needed a bit more tweaking,” said Sgt. Garry Pounder, a food service specialist and a native of Memphis, Tenn.

Pounder explained that for a while, the Marine Corps was the only branch of service to not have a liaison with the Institute, though Marine general’s aides would attend classes. Pounder himself attended classes in 2007, part of the second class open to the Fleet Marine Force.

Lance Cpl. Dara Smith, a food service specialist and a native of Sacramento, Calif., prepares a lunch item for hungry Marines at the station galley, July 24. Smith, with other service members, attended the Culinary Institute of America for a five-week cooking course meant to sharpen her skills in the kitchen.

Marines who attend the Institute are selected based on Chef of the Quarter competitions. Typically, food service specialists adhere to a strict menu. During these competitions the individual cooks can really shine.

“We didn’t place,” said Drew, regarding the competition deciding who would go to the school. “But they said we did a good job and chose us to go to the CIA.”

From there, Drew and Smith embarked on a five-week course where the Marines practiced knife skills, learned about soup stock and sauces (“There’s a lot,” said Smith with a laugh), learned different cooking principles, figured out how to put what side dishes and compliments to which meals and plate displays as well as how the food is presented.

The Marines started out cooking in groups, then teams and, finally, as individuals. The final meal involved three courses: a soup, a salad and an entrée, which had to include a starch, vegetable and main meat.

Drew and Smith developed their own nuanced techniques for how to best serve the judges, who were comprised of chefs teaching at the school.

For full story, visit Yuma.usmc.mil




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