BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) food service Sailors and civilian staff competed May 12 at the 2012 Armed Forces Day military culinary arts competition.
The event was hosted by Naval Base Kitsap (NBK) at the Olympic College student center.
"It was very tough to judge this event. They were all outstanding and represent the best of the best that the Navy and the military offers," said special guest and judge from Washington D.C., Karin George, program manager food service ashore and retired Navy chef. "This was a wonderful opportunity to showcase their skills and I never experienced anything like this when I was in the Navy."
The competition which originated 20 years ago as a chili cook-off between the area's Navy cooks has blossomed into a competition with representatives coming from throughout the greater Puget Sound area such as Joint Base Lewis-McCord, NBK, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Naval Hospital Bremerton, Naval Base Everett, and various ships in the Northwest Navy region.
"It really raises your opinion of the kind of chefs the Navy and the military has...these guys have skills," said Steve Zugschwerdt, freelance photographer and competition attendee.
NHB combined food services staff began their food preparations two days prior to the event and presented the most entries into the competition.
"Our strategy is to just do our best and to represent our command," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW) Arturo Perez, NHB combined food services leading petty officer. "We tried to use the same winning recipes from last year until somebody beats us in that category. The main difference [this year] is in our presentation."
The categories for competition included garnish, chili, appetizer, pie, cake, ribs, wings, and the iron chef cook-off.
"There was no 'I' or 'my' product. Everyone had a hand in each item. We were very critical with each of our entries," said Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Renee Aquino, NHB Combined Food Service leading chief petty 0fficer.
"I think our entries in this competition are phenomenal," said NHB Command Master Chief Frank Dominguez. "They really hit a homerun with the ribs and the cake."
The efforts of the hospital Terrace Dining Room staff were rewarded with first place awards for both the cake and rib category, second place awards in chili and wings, another third place award for their rib entry, and a second overall award for the second consecutive year. According to command staff members who attended the event, the real winners of the competition are always the patrons of NHB Terrace Dining Room.
"Some of the products we prepare for competition make it on our menu at the hospital," said Aquino. "The sushi that won last year we served as part of our healthy menu during our nutrition month celebration."
The NHB galley began instituting healthier menu items in early 2011 according to Aquino.
"We took away serving hamburgers and fries everyday even though people liked it. We try to set their mind on something else [healthier for them]. We serve whole wheat pasta, brown rice, tofu dishes, and we serve a lot of fish on our menu during the week," said Perez.
"I'd like to see a healthy choice category for next year's competition. We could teach a lot of people that healthy food also tastes good."
"I think we would probably ace that category," said Aquino. "We serve a grilled crusted mahi-mahi [here], all we have to do is make a good sauce to go with it."
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