Natural Baking Skills Take Marine To Top of Competition

By Cpl. Nicola McCuin

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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Yuma, Ariz. -- For some, baking is a chore. But for others, it comes as natural as eating. Lance Cpl. Jeremy S. Duncan, MCAS Mess Hall baker, has been interested in baking and cooking about as long as he can remember. Duncan recently proved that his proficiency in the galley is as solid as his love for culinary creations. He was selected as the Commander, Marine Corps Air Bases Western Area's Chef of the Quarter.

"Once a quarter, the best two Marines represent the air station at the competition," said Master Sgt. Leonard J. Rose Jr., mess hall manager and member of the Chef of the Quarter board. The Marines are selected on their ability and food preparation knowledge, Rose added.

The competition was held at MCAS El Toro. The day began with the Marines taking a written test. "We were tested on basic food service knowledge, sanitation, table settings, field mess, and pastry," said Duncan, a Tacoma, Wash., native.

Next, the Marines reported to a five-member board. As with all meritorious boards, the Marines' appearance and bearing was under scrutiny too.

"I was a little nervous reporting to the board," 22-year-old Duncan said. The Marines were asked 10 questions. "The oral portion of the exam was in the same subject areas as the written," Duncan said.

For Duncan, the studying paid off, and he creamed the competition. "I studied general knowledge. But many of the things we do on a daily basis -- like checking meat temperatures to make sure they are at the correct cooking temperature or right for serving," said Duncan, who enlisted in the Marine Corps to travel and gain experience.

Duncan attended a vocational cooking school before joining the Marine Corps, and his recruiter persuaded him to stay with his vocation. "I'm glad I did. I love all aspects of the job," Duncan said. "After someone has had a hard day at work, they look forward to a nice meal before they go home and relax, and I like being able to serve people and make them happy."

Duncan's first kitchen experience was at the tender age of 8. "I went out and picked blackberries, came home and found a cook book, and I made a blackberry cobbler and a big mess," he said.

Duncan does not intend to take his culinary art away from the Marine Corps anytime soon. "I want to do at least one more enlistment, and then I will decide if I'm going to stay in or get out," the baker said.

According to Rose, the mess hall had hit a dry spell and not captured the Chef of the Quarter trophy for several competitions, but Duncan has quenched the drought.

Division of Public Affairs, Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, Washington, DC 20380-1775 Commercial: (703) 614-1492/4/5 DSN: 224-1492/4/5 FAX: (703) 697-5362
Date: 05/29/97 Release #: 345


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Last update: July 27, 1999 19:33