By Julie M. Lucas
NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs

When it comes to hosting events aboard NAS Jacksonville, River Cove Catering and Conference Center leads the way. From luncheons and retirement ceremonies to weddings, their staff has all the capabilities to help create magical events.

"We are here to make whatever you need happen," said Kathy Wiseman, food and beverage director of catering.

While Wiseman is fairly new to her current position, she has a long relationship with NAS Jacksonville as she is the former food service officer at the Flight Line Café. Wiseman recently retired from the Navy as a CWO5 and decided to return home to the Navy.

"Serving Sailors and our troops, taking care of them during their special day and whatever they envision is my priority," Wiseman said. "I want our team to be trusted with all the details small or large."

The historic building, with its location on the St. Johns River, has been known as the former Officers' Club, but Wiseman stresses that this facility is open to all, not just Navy. Other local branches of military, active or reserve, and civilians with base access can use the center.

The waitstaff, who not only serve food and beverages but help set up for events and decorate the facility, help keep everything running smoothly. Wiseman's attention to detail and creative mind led to her building a sleigh to sit outside during the holiday season. One employee, Tonda Black, has worked here for 27 years and said she loves being creative at work.

If you've ever been lucky enough to try some of the food served at River Cove, you know the secret weapon is in the kitchen. Chef Laverne Spriggs has been an MWR employee for 36 years, with 20 of them spent at NAS Jacksonville. Growing up as a daughter of a waitress, Spriggs began her food service career at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. After working at Mulligans here, she got her opportunity to become a cook at the Officers' Club. Spriggs says she loves a culinary challenge.

"We've had requests to do any and everything from baking cookies to roasting a whole pig," she said.

"If people have a family recipe or specialty, just bring me the recipe and I'll make it."

The menu varies from breakfast items to seven-course meals to include wine. Buffets of all kinds of themes vary from Italian to Western to desserts. 

Spriggs says one customer in particular has annual parties and for the last five years has requested the same recipe because she loves it. Spriggs loves cooking so much that she doesn't hang up her apron when she is off duty. 

"My family pretty much expects me to cook during holidays and I make certain items that everyone looks forward to," she said.

When most people think of the center, they think of luncheons, but in the last few months, it has hosted several events to include weddings.

Recently, lights have been strung up outside in the back of the center, with an area to be used to dancing or other purposes.

"Being here in Florida, we are so blessed with such fantastic weather that 80 percent of the time we can host things outdoors and in case of inclement weather, it can moved indoors easily," Wiseman said.  

In the past years, the center has closed down during the last few weeks of December but Wiseman said she wants to stay open next year to host more events. New kinds of events in the planning stages include cooking classes on nights and weekends for adults and children.

One other new thing the center offered this year was desserts and hams for purchase. Desserts ranged from red velvet cheesecake to sweet potato casserole pie and fresh baked yeast rolls. The recipes came from Wiseman who is herself an executive chef.

"I would like to let our customers know that this is their facility. We will do anything we can to help organize or assist with your event. We look forward to helping out," said NAS Jax Morale, Welfare and Recreation Program Director John Bushick. 

For more information about planning your next event, contact Wiseman at 542-3041 or visit www.navymwrjacksonville.com/.