USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- Aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) played host to the "Messlords," a group of popular restaurant owners, July 18-20, giving the chefs an opportunity to tour the legendary ship, and to meet with and cook alongside the crew.
Sponsored by Navy Entertainment, the group of business-owning chefs have traveled to multiple forward-deployed military installations, have been featured on the Food Network and are renowned for their culinary skills. Their visit to the Big E, however, presented the chefs with a thrill different from that associated with being on television.
What the "Messlords" were most looking forward to about their time aboard Enterprise was a chance to practice their craft aboard the United States' first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the opportunity to work with the culinary specialists (CSs) stationed aboard.
"I look forward to cooking my hamburgers for everyone, that's what we're here for," said Michael "Hodad" Hardin, owner of Hodad's burger restaurants in San Diego. "We get a lot of perks and are treated like rock stars, but the main reason we're here is to meet service members and show off a little bit of our food. We're here for them."
Hodad's was opened in 1962 by Hardin's parents. The restaurant and its food have been featured on CNN and the Food Network. Hodad's burgers have also been featured in "Gourmet Magazine."
Joining Hardin on the Navy Entertainment-sponsored embark were Sarah Simington, owner of Blue Moon Cafe in Baltimore, Pete "Panini Pete" Blohme, owner of Panini Pete's Cafe and Bakeshoppe in Mobile and Fairhope, Ala., and Jeffrey "Stretch" Rumanerh, owner of Grinders Pizza in Kansas City, Kan.
Simington and her mother opened The Blue Moon Cafe in the Fells Point area of Baltimore in 1996. Her work combines her love of people and food, a combination she brought with her to the Enterprise.
"This is the first ship we've been on," said Simington, "and it's been absolutely fantastic. Working with, and getting to know the people here has been amazing."
Blohme, or "Panini Pete," has been cooking since age 14, and opened Panini Pete's Cafe and Bakeshoppe in February 2006. His restaurants have been featured on the Food Network shows "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and "Guy's Big Bite."
Stretch, owner of Grinders Pizza and Grinders West, has been featured on the Discovery Channel television show "Monster House" and has also worked with ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
During their time aboard Enterprise, the "Messlords" were able to take in the operational aspects of the ship, including flight operations and a replenishment at sea with Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6).
The "Messlords" also visited the carrier's weapons magazine, Medical and Dental spaces, forecastle, ship's store, navigation bridge, primary flight control, the museum (the Enterprise Room) and the coffee shop, Starboard Joe's.
Beyond the extensive tour of the legendary aircraft carrier, the chefs seemed most eager to participate in regular shipboard activities and to give back to the service members by cooking their most famous dishes. They accomplished this goal with the help of most of the ship's culinary specialists, who the chefs spent hours with during the trip.
"We love it when we get to work service men and women," said Hardin. "I was in the forward galley today, and everyone in there really welcomed me."
During the course of their three-day visit, the "Messlords," with the help of the Enterprise CSs, cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for the more than 4,600 Sailors and Marines aboard the Big E.
They then went on to host ship-wide Bingo, a further indication of the visiting chefs' desire to simply spend time with the crew and thank them for their service.
"What you do is hard work," said Blohme. "You guys that work in the galleys, you know it's tough work...well, even those that don't work in the galley. I haven't seen anything that looked easy on this ship."
While the entire crew got to enjoy the effort put forth by the "Messlords" in the kitchen, much of their visit was spent working with the Sailors and Marines who cook for the carrier's crew day in and day out.
"These chefs spent a lot of time just talking shop with the junior culinary specialists," said Master Chief Culinary Specialist Thaddeus T. Wright, the assistant food service officer aboard Enterprise. "The feedback that the young Sailors gave was pretty amazing."
The "Messlords" received rave reviews for both their willingness to spend quality time with the crew as well as, not surprisingly, their food.
"This is one of the best burgers I've had," said Machinist's Mate 1st Class James Holman. "It's nice to have a home-cooked meal to help remind us what is waiting for us following deployment."
The "Messlords" departed Enterprise July 20 to continue their Navy Entertainment tour with a stop at Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
Enterprise is currently deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
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