USS KEARSARGE, At sea -- Marines assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and sailors aboard the USS Kearsarge went head-to-head in the 2nd Annual Steel Chef competition aboard the amphibious assault ship while at sea March 23, 2013. The team composed of three Marines – team No Mercy – competed against a team made up of three sailors – team Safety Ates.
“The Steel Chef competition consists of two teams that are competing for Steel Chef supremacy,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Marco Phifer, a Chesapeake, Va., native and head culinary specialist assigned to the USS Kearsarge. “They will be preparing three different products: a soup, a starter and a main dish.”
As if only receiving 90 minutes to complete all three dishes wasn’t a big enough challenge in itself, the competitors were also tasked with the requirement of including garlic in all of their creations.
“I have done a competition like this in the past,” said Lance Cpl. Mallorie Adams, a Claremore, Okla., native, and combat cook assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “I volunteered for this competition because I love cooking, and I like the competition and the thrill of it.”
As the late afternoon went on and the time ticked away, both teams worked in a cohesive manner being able to accomplish their dishes. As an added treat, team No Mercy made a punch to go along with their food and a chocolate fondue with cut up fruit as a dessert, while team Safety Ates created frozen lemonade to finish their meal.
The panel composed of 12 unbiased judges, sampled each dish, one-by-one. With different taste preferences, appeasing the different judges in the competition seemed to ensure the competition stayed extremely close.
With custom embroidered chef jackets at stake, the time to unveil the winner was at hand. Winning by a single point, team No Mercy was awarded the title of Steel Chefs during the competition.
“We were definitely the underdogs, but it feels really good to win,” said Adams, one of the Steel Chef victors. “Going into the competition, I had my doubts, but while we were preparing and cooking, my confidence started to rise, especially when I noticed they were a little more behind than us.”
Although confidence may have wavered at times for some participants, Lance Cpl. Brandon Schwartz, a Sheboygan, Wis., native and combat cook assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit had no doubts he would receive anything but first place.
“A lot of people told me I was going to lose because we were going up against (Culinary Specialist 1st Class) Mills who cooked for the president for eight years,” said Schwartz. “It never bothered me. I have cooked for a long time. I knew I was going to win, no matter what. I always have confidence in myself and in my cooking.”
In his closing words, he wanted to contribute his success to the other cook, Adams and to their runner, Lance Cpl. Antonio Wilcox, a Clinton, N.C., native, and aviation radar electrical technician assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266 (Reinforced). He also boasted he is ready to claim victory in the championship cook off at the end of the deployment.
Any Marine or sailor interested in competing in future events should contact Phifer.
“The cooks don’t have to be Navy cooks or Marine cooks by rate or military occupational specialty. Anybody on ship can participate. They just have to want to cook,” explained Phifer. “Because we have so many Marines and sailors interested in competing, we are going to do this twice a month.”