First Tank Battalion Baker Rises To The Occasion

By Cpl. C.J. Young
Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center
29 Palms, California

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MARINE CORPS AIR-GROUND COMBAT CENTER, Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- Making a lot of "dough" is something many Marines wish they could do on a daily basis. But for Lance Cpl. Victor Espinoza, a baker at the 1st Tank Battalion Messhall, making a lot of dough is what he's all about. On a daily basis, the Los Angeles native bakes an average of 1,200 portions of pastries and cakes, not counting those needed for field messes.

The job of baker used to be a separate military occupational specialty but is now a part of the regular cook's MOS. Although he's done both jobs, Espinoza values his time in the bakery.

"I first started baking when I was overseas," Espinoza said. "I asked to be a baker because they work alone and don't have the hassles the cooks have. Cooks have time constraints in which to make and get their food out. In the bakery, you work at your own pace and when I'm done, I go home.

"I can get artistic and experiment in the bake shop, especially with the breakfast pastries," Espinoza said. "I have the artistic freedom to design the pastries and the cakes. It's important they look good because they say people 'eat with their eyes,' meaning if they like what they see, then they'll eat it."

While he has freedom to design what he makes, the messhall managers dictate which pastries and how many portions of each Espinoza makes. Once he gets the orders, Espinoza pulls recipe cards from his files and breaks out the flour.

"Sometimes it's difficult to get started, you have to get in groove," Espinoza said as he removed the centers of his homemade donuts. "When I first started, I had to use the cards a lot. Now, I know most of the recipes by heart."

"If cooking is an art, then baking is a science," said 1st Tank Bn. messhall property manager and former baker, Sgt. Edward Orr. "Baking has to be more precise. One little slip and you can ruin an entire batch of pastries," Orr said. "Espinoza is one of the best bakers we have because he doesn't mind putting in the time to ensure quality. If he isn't sure, he asks questions."

As good as he may be, Espinoza is no superman in or out of the kitchen. In fact he'll be the first to tell anyone about his own particular "Kryptonite." "It's real hard to resist the pastries when they first come out of the oven and they're nice and hot," Espinoza said.

Lucky for those Marines who eat in the messhall, Espinoza has a reasonable amount of self-control.

Commercial: (703) 614-1492/4/5 DSN: 224-1492/4/5 FAX: (703) 697-5362

Date: 2/3/97 Release #: Byline: Cpl. C.J. Young -USMC-

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Last update: February 3, 1997 at 1700