“Semper Paratus,” or “always ready,” is the Coast Guard’s motto. And ready was just what they were as they competed for the first time in the Installation of the Year category during the 33rd U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition.
Some may have thought they would’ve been “fish out of water” – as none of the members of the Coast Guard’s team had ever cooked in a mobile field kitchen.
“We don’t have any field kitchens except during hurricane season,” said Senior Chief Food Service Specialist Justin Reed, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C. Even then, Reed said, the Coast Guard Reserves are the ones who set up the field kitchens, and they are the ones with all the field kitchen training.
Reed said other services might have a slight advantage with field cooking, but “People use different types of kitchens and we’re all trained cooks, so we should know how to cook in any type of kitchen.”
“This experience is invaluable,” said Petty Officer 1st Class James Swenson, Washington D.C. DHS. “This is by far one of the best things military food service has going for it.”
Swenson said that he and the rest of the Coast Guard team are just happy to be a part of the competition.
The Coast Guard team of nine had never even worked together as a cooking team prior to this year’s competition. One may never have known by watching them perform together in the kitchen.
“I’ve been cooking for 10 years and never have I come into a kitchen full of strangers and come together as a team like this in an effort to get the job done,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Brittney White-Gonzales, Boston, District 1, SCA.
She said it normally takes weeks to get a cooking crew to the comfort level that their team came to almost instantly.
Whether on dry land or out safeguarding the waters, this Coast Guard team will depart with lessons learned and great experiences competing – not to mention a few medals.
“I just want to thank the Army for inviting other services to come and experience this wonderful competition,” Swenson said.