Weapons cook stirs up award-winning menu
By Cpl. Alisha R. Fitzgerald
| | September 06, 2002
MARINE COPRS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND/EASTERN RECRUITING REGION, S.C. - --
Lance Cpl. Gerald Madsen, mess hall cook, Weapons and Field
Training Battalion, was named Chef of the Quarter at WFTBn. Mess Hall Sept. 12.
The competition marked the last of its kind and the last time a Marine would be given the title, due to mess hall operations being taken over
by civilian personnel beginning Oct. 1.
After close examination of Marine Air Ground Task Force operations, the Department of Defense awarded Sodexho, a civilian food service
company, the contract to take over all East and West coast Marine Corps mess halls in an effort to become more cost efficient. Therefore,
mess hall Marines will become a thing of the past.
"The last of our cooks will be phased out during January 2003," said Capt. James D. McCoy, officer in charge, Depot Food Service. "Out of the
19 cooks I have, 12 will remain in food service as quality assurance evaluators."
The participants in this final competition were handpicked by their mess hall managers. The cooks, then, underwent a three-part analysis to
determine who would be named Chef of the Quarter, including a comprehensive exam, board and cook-off.
Each cook prepared his choice of menu items for the cook-off. Three chefs from The Salt Marsh Grill, an upscale restaurant on Dataw Island,
were on hand to judge the competition.
"We were basically looking for who put in the extra effort," said judge Linda LaBonte, Salt Marsh sous-chef. "For instance, were fresh or
frozen products used and how did each item taste."
Although civilians have always judged the Chef of the Quarter competition, this was the first time this particular team had been given the
opportunity, according to Gunnery Sgt. Lia Vandernat, property chief, Depot Food Service.
"The judges we select must be food-trained from an accredited culinary institute," said Vandernat. "We called around and luckily got three
from the same restaurant."
After the judges sampled each of the six contestants' menu items, they came to a unanimous decision in favor of Madsen.
"He made the effort to do something different," said LaBonte. "You could see he had gone the extra mile by doing things like making homemade
bread and preparing more than one vegetable side dish. His items also had a slightly better taste than the others."
Madsen's winning combination included grilled salmon, sautéed spinach, garlic butter potatoes, sautéed broccoli, sautéed carrots and Italian
pastries for dessert. For his award-winning efforts, he received a certificate signed by Brig. Gen. Joseph J. McMenamin, Depot and Eastern
Recruiting Region Commanding General, an opportunity to train with culinary chefs at the Fripp Island Resort and his name engraved on the
traveling Chef of the Quarter plaque that will hang on the WFTBn. Mess Hall wall for the remainder of the quarter.
Madsen was confident going into the competition.
"I had a good idea that I might win," he said. "I have prior experience with these types of things. I worked as a cook in an Italian
restaurant for almost three years before joining the Corps."
After the changeover to civilian personnel, Madsen hopes to get orders to a grunt unit where he can work as a field cook.