A Day in the Life of a Culinary Specialist

Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Gaddis IV, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Det. Northwest

SILVERDALE, Wash. – “Reveille, Reveille, All Hands heave out!” the announcement that wakes shipboard Sailors and Marines. After the routine wake-up motions and a clean shave, service members head toward the galley to partake in the “most important” meal of the day. While Sailors are sleeping in their racks or at the barracks, culinary specialists had already been at work for hours.

The culinary specialist, or CS, rate was established January 15, 2004. Prior to 1975 they were known as mess management specialist (MS), commissarymen (CS) and stewards (SD).

“Even with all the different tasks I have set before me, the meal must come out right and on time,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Roel Caballero, assigned to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor’s Trident Inn Galley.

Caballero has been a CS for more than seven years and even though it was not his initial rate of choice, he has grown very fond of the job.

“We’re up by 3 a.m. to start preparing breakfast to be served by 6 a.m.,” said Caballero. “Some of our CS’s have to report on lower-base to prepare meals and have to walk to work every morning.”

Culinary specialists receive extensive training in culinary arts, hotel management and other areas within the hospitality industry according to Navy Personnel Command.

“Time management is very important in the galley,” said Caballero. “You have a kettle full of chicken that takes about 45 minutes to cook, but the potatoes have to be seasoned too. So you look at your staff and see that one third of your kitchen was sent to the lower-base galley and you realize you don’t have enough hands.”

The number of tasks usually outnumbers the CS’s at work, so many of the CS’s must handle multiple dishes in synchronization with their collateral duties and Sailor obligations.

“Covering such a large base, sometimes we are low on manpower and the office staff will have to come assist with food preparation,” said Caballero. “Sometimes administration stays until 7 p.m., but it’s okay as long as the meal comes out correct and on time.”

It takes more than just manpower to successfully serve a base as large as Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

“Between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we serve about 700 meals a day,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Christopher Pausch, Trident Inn Galley’s leading petty officer. “That’s around 120 for breakfast, 400-500 for lunch, and about 150 meals for dinner.”

Typical food cost per day ranges from $8,000 – $10,000, according to Culinary Specialist 2nd Class John Eppers, assigned to the Trident Inn Galley.

“On average we use about 540 eggs just for breakfast,” said Eppers. “Then 120 pounds of chicken, 100 pounds of beef, 70 pounds of burgers, 48 pounds of vegetables and 30 pounds of bacon per meal service.”

Even though Caballero is a CS, his primary job is in the office doing administrative work and taking care of his Sailors.

“This is me! After helping in the galley I head back to the office, I guess you would call this a break,” said Caballero. “I’m the command career counselor, training petty officer, and do pretty much anything that ties to paperwork.”

On top of menu management and food ordering, operating kitchen and dining facilities, and serving personnel food, Caballero is also in charge of managing his Sailors careers.

“It’s a lot of responsibility being the career counselor, handling our Sailors careers, with Career Waypoints, and evaluations,” said Caballero. “On top of that, all of the monthly publications from My Navy Portal (formerly known as Navy Knowledge Online) is a huge task, but when they need hands in the galley, you just drop it and make sure the meal is right.”

The golden rule of the galley is, “the meal must be right and on time,” according to Caballero.

Caballero and his team from Bangor are slated to compete May 6, when Olympic College holds its 24th Annual Armed Forces Culinary Arts Competition at the college’s Bremer Student Center in Bremerton, Washington.

“The difference between cooking for Sailors on the day-to-day basis and a competition is very slim,” said Caballero. “Cooking for a competition you have a tight time limit, you have to put yourself out of the box and use actual cooking methods. On base you have a larger source of manpower which means you can designate different dishes to different people to complete the meal.”

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