ABOARD USS MOBILE BAY (NNS) -- The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) has become the first Pacific Fleet ship to install updated and modern meal preparation equipment, use pre-cooked meals and develop an Advanced Food Service System (AFSS) concept. The crew celebrated with an opening ceremony Feb. 24.
AFSS is the latest multifunctional food preparation system to be used in a Navy shipboard galley. The system involves the removal of all the deep-fat fryers and the use of combination ovens, skittles, induction plates and blast chillers.
The combination oven can cook different foods simultaneously with the flavors intertwining. It also cooks food in half the time of a regular oven. With its unique ability to inject steam, its functions range from cooking with the capability of two high-pressure steamers to baking with dry heat and steam.
Another part of the AFSS is the skittle, a versatile piece of equipment that can perform many functions, to include acting as a high-pressure steamer. Then, with the closing of a lid and turning of a cap, it can grill.
A third piece of Mobile Bay's new galley includes an induction plate, which is a method for cooking soups and sauces. It has a specialized burner that responds to the magnetism of pots and pans being cooked on it. With the induction plate there is no open flame, and nothing gets heated but the food inside the plate.
The final element of the cruiser's AFSS is a blast chiller, which is used when the pre-cooked meals are being brought aboard the ship. It quickly brings the temperature of the food down, so it can be stored in the refrigerator before it is used.
Along with the advanced and more modern equipment, healthier, pre-cooked meals will be incorporated on the menu. These meals, along the lines of Army and Marine Corps Meals, Ready-To-Eat (MRE), are defined as high quality, heat-and-serve meals that include an entree and vegetables. Culinary Specialist 1st Class Lamont G. Moore feels the new menu is not only easier to prepare, but it is full of variety, as well.
"We are no longer using our old menu. Now we have different kinds of meals from week to week. Meals like lasagna, spaghetti and meatloaf are on our menus now. They come ready-made, and we just heat and serve. The same applies to soups. Even gravy requires little effort. They come in a powder, and all we have to do is add water and stir," said Moore, 36, from East Orange, N.J., who works with the advanced system in the galley.
According to Mobile Bay's Food Service Officer, Lt. j.g. Melissa A. Richardson, the percentage of prepared foods being served is 75 percent in port, but once the ship deploys, the percentage will go down to 50 percent. Richardson also noted that improving the food would improve the overall quality of life aboard the San Diego-based ship.
"The quality of life is already changing. The crew has been responding well to these changes, and the food has been consistently good. Even visitors who stay on the ship are impressed with the food," said Richardson, 25, from Fallon, Nev.
In addition to shortened preparation times and higher quality food, the cleanup process has also been shortened with the use of sheet and strap pans covered with a nonstick coating similar to Teflon or Silverstone that decreases food buildup during cooking. According to Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Omar J. Cranford, he has already noticed significant differences in his daily workday.
"The food is pre-cooked, and there is less room for error in preparing it. We also get off work earlier and have more time for training," said Cranford, 20, from Kansas City, Mo.
According to the ship's commanding officer, Capt. Neal J. Kusumoto, even with all the benefits involved, it all boils down to improving the crew's day-to-day life.
"Our crew's morale depends on how good the food is. Bottom line, this new system is for the crew," Kusumoto said.
For related news, visit the Navy Public Affairs Center San Diego Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/pacensandiego.