PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- USS Kearsarge's (LHD 3) Mess Decks are no longer run by Mess Management Specialists.
In a move designed to better describe the rating's duties and mission, the name changed to Culinary Specialist Jan. 15, with the release of NAVADMIN 012/04. Conversion to the new rating was automatic. Requests from Sailors or commands are not required.
The change is intended to align the rating with today's commercial culinary profession and enhance the rating's professional image.
Kearsarge has 48 culinary specialists in its S-2 and S-5 divisions, where they maintain and operate the ship's dining facilities and staterooms.
"In the civilian world, the word "mess" has a negative meaning," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Michael Ybarra. "The new name makes it easier for our civilian counterparts to identify what it is we do."
"Sometimes, it can take a half an hour to explain what a mess is," S-2 Master Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Leonard Floyd agreed. "People in the civilian food service industry don't need an explanation to know what a culinary specialist does."
"Now that we're designated as culinary specialists, I think the goal should be for everyone to earn their chef's certification," Culinary Specialist 2nd Class LaDonna Gossett added.
As part of Task Force EXCEL, the culinary specialist vector includes earning an associate's degree in culinary arts. The career path begins with a 12-week Foundation School that includes all the academic requirements to become an American culinary federation certified culinarian. It can lead to achieving certifications as a certified executive chef or certified master chef.
There are currently 74 certified master chefs and certified master pastry chefs in the world.
"This is all part of Task Force EXCEL," explained Food Service Officer Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bernice Williamson. "It will make the transition easier for Sailors going into the civilian food service industry. This is a real motivator, because they can see how the skills they learn here directly translate to life after the Navy.
"It also helps us recruit men and women who want to become chefs. They see the opportunity to gain valuable education and experience through the Navy."
Recruiters regularly canvas the nation's top cooking schools, including Johnson and Wales University and the Culinary Institute of America, offering Navy careers to top graduates.
The payoff for these culinary artists is the experience gained cooking for the crew of a large ship like Kearsarge. With Marines embarked, the ship serves more meals in a single day than even the busiest civilian restaurants serve in a week.
For related news, visit the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/lhd3.