News: Cherry Point chefs compete for Chef of The Year honors
Story by Lance Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - A person would be hard pressed to find a Marine who would turn down a hot meal, like teriyaki chicken, oriental rice, stir fry cabbage and fried apple pie for dessert.
That very meal, prepared by Cpl. Michael P. Gaudin, made judges’ mouths water when Cherry Point’s top chefs competed for chef of year honors at the Cherry Point Mess Hall, Oct. 28.
Gaudin’s eastern Asian themed cuisine deemed him Cherry Point’s top chef at the annual contest. Fellow food service specialist Marines, Cpl. Bewar M. Meho, who took 2nd place, and Lance Cpl. Timothy J. Hoffman, named 3rd place, joined him in the competition.
“There was a lot riding on this competition, because the winner is going to the Culinary Institute of America Course in Hyde Park, New York,” said Staff Sgt. Diedreann A. Anderson, the assistant mess hall liaison. “It’s one of the top rated courses in the country and it is where all the top chefs go.”
The three chefs cooked their way into the competition by previously claiming chef of the quarter.
“Their experience showed going in,” Anderson noted. “But there is always room for improvement, and they didn’t take this competition lightly.”
About a month in advance of the competition, the chefs chose the dishes’ they’d prepare from the Armed Forces Recipe Index, which is the cookbook mess halls throughout the U.S. military use.
On the day of the competition the chefs gave an all-or-nothing effort, showing up to the mess hall as early as 4 a.m. to allow enough preparation time before presenting their plates to the judges at 10:30 a.m.
“Eighty percent of the time it’s not going to go how you planned,” explained Anderson, “And that is where the knowledge and experience comes in to find a way to make it happen.”
Even if something went wrong, the chefs had to stay focused and keep moving forward.
“If you lose your mind for one second, you may come back to a burnt product,” said Meho.
At times it seemed like they were just running around, but they know what they were doing, Anderson ensured.
Then oven timers went off, plates were garnished and it was time to serve.
“Coming before the judges was probably the most nerve-racking part of the entire competition,” said Gaudin. “They were hard critics, buy they were good judges.”
The three judges were; Capt. Edgardo Perez-Lugo, the commanding officer of the Naval Health Clinic here, Mary Taylor, the station supply director and Master Sgt. Bryan J. Rhude, the aviation operations chief with H&HS.
“The food was excellent and they were very professional,” said Rhude, who judged for his first time.
When asked why he chose to prepare the dish that won it all, Gaudin simply said, “I like teriyaki chicken, so I chose it.”
The Judges obviously liked it too, and now Gaudin will be heading to one of the finest culinary courses in the country.
“He is very deserving,” said Meho.