USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea (NNS) -- Culinary specialists aboard U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) competed in a cooking contest on May 20, for the opportunity to compete in an upcoming "Iron Chef" cooking competition filmed in Bangkok, Thailand.
The contest aboard Blue Ridge was organized by Chief Warrant Officer Brian Ware, the "chow boss," to determine the best to serve as sous chefs to Culinary Specialist 1st Class Frank Medina.
The U.S. Embassy in Thailand requested Sailors from the ship to appear on an "Iron Chef" program in Bangkok during the ship's visit. Blue Ridge Sailors have previously competed and won cooking competitions in Vladivostok, Russia in 2010 and Sepangar, Malaysia in 2011, and Ware knew that his team would be up for the challenge.
"I could only send three CSs (culinary specialists) but have over 100 CSs aboard," Ware said. "The only way to make it fair was to hold a competition for all E-5 and above CSs to compete against each other aboard the ship in three-person teams."
The ship-wide contest was held on the enlisted mess decks and featured three-member teams from the enlisted galley, Chiefs Mess, flag mess and wardroom. Their dishes, with the secret ingredient of pineapple, were presented to a 12-judge panel representing different departments from U.S. 7th Fleet staff and Blue Ridge crew to earn the opportunity to compete in the Iron Chef competition.
"Judging the Iron Chef was a bucket list item for me," said Senior Chief Steven Borba, Administration leading chief petty officer and one of the 12 judges. "I regularly watch "Iron Chef" on Food Network and thought it would be fun to be part of that and give feedback. Everything tasted good and was well presented, but the "White House" team was amazing with the appetizer, main dish and dessert and hit everything right on the mark."
The White House team, comprised of Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Nelson Malaxi, Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Manuelito Belocura, and Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Eric Nava from the enlisted galley, won the competition. All three were granted 72 hours of special liberty and Malaxi and Belocura will join Ware and Medina for the competition in Bangkok.
The competition will be headlined by a visit from Thai media who will interview the culinary specialists and videotape cooking demonstrations aboard the ship. The main competition will feature the secret ingredient of either lamb or live octopus and the cooking team will have to prepare four recipes for the selected ingredient.
"Glenn Marine (global husbanding agent for the U.S. Navy) is working on getting live octopuses for us so our chefs can practice because live octopus is something we don't normally cook," Ware said.
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