VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- USS Theodore Roosevelt's (CVN 71) Food Service Administration (FSA) was voted as the People's Choice Champions in the second annual Best of the Mess charity event in Virginia Beach, Va., Feb. 10.
More than 300 guests attended the charity competition and the proceeds from their ticket purchases, silent auction, and 50/50 raffle went to the Chief Petty Officer Scholarship Fund, which provides education funds for qualified family members of chief petty officers.
Defending champion TR was awarded second place in the judging by culinary professionals this year, but earned the popular vote as the People's Champions. The Rough Riders competed in the event against Strike Group 2, this year's champions, as well as Naval Station Norfolk, USS Bainbridge (DDG-96), Submarine Forces Atlantic.
"There's nothing better than Navy chow, and there is a lot of delicious food here tonight," said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West. "Good food is important on ships because it really sets the tone and morale for our Sailors."
TR's preparation for the event utilized the full FSA team to begin pre-cooking and setting up some of the dishes needed for the estimated 300 guests. Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Crystal J. Graham, Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Rogelyn Cambe and Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Amy Calbert were the chefs in charge of cooking for the judges at the event.
"Our ship's mess set the standard last year," said Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Michael Brinkman. "We planned and worked hard. I'm proud of TR's culinary specialists giving their all in this competition."
This year's event not only used a Mardi Gras theme, but the organizers also spiced up the competition by adding a predetermined list of ingredients to use for their custom menu. The Rough Rider Chefs used the list to create their three-course meal - oyster ceasar salad with crabmeat and crawfish for the appetizer, bayou surf and turf with pulled pork shoulder as the main course, and banana foster crepes for dessert.
"Within a week, we bought our ingredients, planned what we were going to cook, and made our meal catering enough people for the competition," said Graham. "Preparing for a competition is different from what we do on the ship, and although we were nervous at first, there was no pressure and we were there to have a good time."
After each team presented their meals, the judges graded each team on their use of the ingredients, how it tasted, how it was cooked, how it was prepared, and the difficulty of their dishes. Attendees were also given the opportunity to vote for their favorite team.
"Although we didn't win first place, it meant a lot to win the 'People's Choice' award because it meant that people loved and enjoyed our product," said Graham. "That's the most important thing that I've taken out of this experience."
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