Culinary specialists (CS) and culinary evaluators from the Navy Region Southeast gathered for two days to participate in a sous chef certification exam aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville March 13-14. Cathy Wiseman, a retired chief warrant officer 5, and David Bearl, certification testing and training specialist, hosted the training. Wiseman began offering these events here in 2012.

“I saw an opportunity while I was working in the River Cove Catering and Conference Center,” Wiseman said.

“There were days when we weren’t busy, so I decided why not start training. This is not only a win for us by bringing in revenue, but it is an opportunity for a culinary specialist to advance and for the shipmates to have better quality food.”

Bearl has been training Navy culinary specialists since 1989. During this exam, there were three official evaluators grading the CS students and three candidate evaluators who were grading the students as well, but their scoring did not count. The candidate evaluators must take part in evaluating three certification exams before their scores count and they become official evaluators.

“This is a dual-purpose exam giving culinary students and evaluators an opportunity to advance,” Bearl said.

“I enjoy watching them succeed and being able to advance in their professions and rates.”

This class had 10 students and half tested each day. To qualify for this exam, Sailors need to be well-rounded, have excelled-management skills, and be a supervisor in his or her field. The exam consisted of two parts: a practical and a written portion. There were students working towards becoming a certified culinarian, as well as becoming a certified sous chef. The students must show organization skills, craftsmanship, and follow the appropriate cooking methods that fall in line with the guidelines.

The practical portion of the exam consisted of cooking globe artichokes, preparing a six-ounce steak to medium rare, fillet and poach a flounder, and prepare a classic matignon containing diced ham, celery and carrots. Students must exemplify their ability of caramelizing and display the four classical cuts: paysanne, dice, brunoise, and batonnet. The written portion involves terms and knowledge of French culinary cooking. Knowing these facts can prepare a CS for the rating exams.

To pass the exam, students need to score at least 80 percent on both the practical and written portions. “These exams are high demanding. A lot of people struggle with the written portion because they are not used to the terminology on the exam,” Wiseman said.

“We try to continuously refine our teaching methods. By getting the information out earlier, so the students can gain an advanced foothold.”

After obtaining a certification, it is good for five years. One NAS Jax Sailor is excited to take his skills back to his galley.

CS2 Shane Thompson said, “This exam gives me an opportunity to test my skills and show my abilities. Coming here pushes me to my edge and helps me strive to be a better cook. The knowledge we learn during this exam, not only helps us become certified, but we can bring that knowledge back to fleet.”