Marine Cooks Do More Than "Sling Hash" During Culinary Olympics

By Sgt. Dan Price

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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Iwakuni, Japan (Oct. 24) -- A team of five chefs representing the air station was recognized as international chefs after receiving certificates of diploma during this year's Culinary Food Olympics held in Berlin, Germany from Sept. 8-12.

The team, lead by Master Sgt. Andrew P. Schneider, Northside Messhall manager and former cook for four Commandants, competed against culinary teams representing 30 nations as well as more than 100 independent chefs.

The team was comprised of Schneider, his wife Joanne, and Sgt. Joseph M. Woody, who is also from the Northside Messhall and also a former commandant's cook.

In addition, two other members of the team, who joined the group in Germany, were Chef James Brown, chief chef at Ramstein Air Force Base Officer's Club, and his associate, Carol Young.

The five-chef team went on to win individual fourth-place honorable mention diplomas in six out of eight entries, missing a bronze medal by just three points.

"Chef Brown, who won a silver medal back in 1992, was formerly head chef at the air station's clubs," said Schneider.

Joanne Schneider said that one of the highlights for the team was a cake made by Woody.

"Sergeant Woody made a small chocolate cake that was so smooth it looked like glass," she said. "The judges made him cut a piece of it to see if it was real."

This was the first time Marines have competed in the Culinary Olympics. Schneider said he "wanted to open the door for Marines to compete."

Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Russo III, Gen. John J. Sheehan's enlisted aide, received the first gold medal of any Marine during this year's Olympics as a member of the U.S. Culinary Team.

"He (Russo) helped our team considerably," said Schneider. "Without his help, we could not have done as well as we did."

"Sending Marines was like sending country cousins to the big city, but they competed well," said Col. Robert S., Melton, air station commanding officer, who said he felt that sending the team was well worth the money invested.

"Whether it be for improving special events, like the Marine Corps Birthday Ball or Christmas, or giving our messhalls a homier feel, the entire air station reaps the rewards of their experience," he said. "It's worth the expense if it improves the basic morale of the troops, plus it gives a little "P.R." to the air station and its messhalls."

Schneider said that these Culinary Food Olympics coincided with the regular Olympic games and also awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals to the winners. Just like in Atlanta, many teams thought the U.S. would be favored.

"Competition was tough, and many teams were disqualified for not following the rules," Schneider said. "Many teams walked away without anything, so we feel pretty good to have been awarded the diplomas."

The grading system was based on exact measurements of food portions. Appearance, which includes color and variety, and nutritional value were also major factors.

To simulate realistic appearances of soups and sauces, a clear jell was used. Pieces of food, though suspended in the jell, would appear to float in the soup. the same jell also helped to hold rice and other foods together so it could be shaped and molded.

Also, Schneider said judges tasted some of the dishes, so it was important that the food tasted and looked good. According to Joanne, some teams ignored the rules and used "super glue" to hold pieces in place.

To improve the team's appearance, as well as the appearance of the food, the team received help from Morale, Welfare, and Recreation's Food and Hospitality Division.

"Food and Hospitality gave us great support, and provided us with our chef uniforms," said Schneider, who added that the team logo was embroidered on the front of the blouses.

"Since we could loose points if our silver had a scratch mark, Food and Hospitality provided us with brand new trays to use. We brought them back so they could use them over and over again," Schneider said."We did our best and learned what we could. But most importantly, we opened the door for other Marines to enter future Food Olympics," he said. "We proved that Marine cooks can do more than sling hash and flip eggs."

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Date: 11/11/96 Release #: Byline: Sgt. Dan Price


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Last update: November 14, 1996 at 2000