By Julie M. Lucas
NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs
Culinary specialists (CS) from Navy Region Southeast gathered at Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) to prepare for a chef certification exam.
For 10 days, the CSs studied and practiced for the American Culinary Federation's chef examination at the River Cove Catering and Conference Center.
"These Sailors we have had the pleasure of working with, represent some of the best at their respective bases," said Kathy Wiseman, River Cove Catering and Conference Center food and beverage director. Wiseman, a retired chief warrant officer 5 food service officer, hosted this same training aboard the base in 2012.
Criteria for the Certified Sous Chef (CSC) examination consists of safety and sanitation, organization, craftsmanship skills, and finished product skills. The exam covers two portions - the practical exam and a written test with 100 questions.
Components of the practical include preparing a 6-ounce steak, filleting a flat fish and poaching it, creating four portions of salad with an emulsified dressing, cooking a rice pilaf, and other items within a two-hour period.
A passing score is 300 and the certification is valid for five years. Eight of the Sailors participating in the certification were working towards the CSC.
To qualify for the training, the Sailors must be in a position where they supervise others. A junior Sailor trained towards another certification and can later come back for additional certifications.
"I've done a lot of work that would be typical for a second class petty officer and that is why I was selected to attend this training," said CSSN Katelyn Smith of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas.
Smith had worked in restaurants before joining the Navy in 2015 and her future goal is to be a submariner CS. Her interest in food started when her father was serving in Italy with the Navy.
For more experienced Sailors, the training allowed them to hone skills they had been using for years while serving.
"Honestly, the part I'm most worried about is the written exam and knowing the terms," said CS2 Justin Pendleton of Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. "I've learned so much this week from different cuisine styles to materials."
Chef David Bearl, an instructor from the University of Florida, came to NAS Jax to do some training with the chef trainees. Bearl has served several times as an evaluator during the practical exam.
"Who here has filleted a flat fish?" Bearl asked the trainees. When no hands were raised, his response was, "We have some work to do."
Along with spending hours studying terms and practicing dishes, the future chefs took a field trip to Daytona Beach to sample different kinds of cuisine.
Wiseman chose the location because it was a favorite of hers and she wanted the trainees to sample different flavor combinations.
"Focus on the flavors, examine the knife cuts and think about the dishes as a whole," instructed Wiseman.
After only three days of training, some of the cooks, even with years of experience, felt their experience was taking them to the next level.
"I'm excited to go back to my galley and show others what I've learned, like plating skills and cut techniques," said CS3 Michael Gregory of the NAS Jax Flight Line Café.
Wiseman is planning future opportunities for other motivated CSs.
"The cost for a person to get this kind of certification would cost them around $10,000, so I'm extremely pleased that we can have our Sailors achieve this while still serving in the Navy," Wiseman said.