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A Letter from a Visiting Chef

By Chef Trevor Hamilton, C.C.C.

I am not sure if everyone in the Navy is aware of the Adopt a Ship Program, so let me tell you about it. The program gives civilian chefs and Navy mess management specialists an opportunity to work together and learn from each other. I have found it to be a most enriching experience.

MSCS Michael Gratton, a member of the San Diego Navy Food Management Team, arranged through MSCS Tony Siack for me to join the USS Shiloh (CG 67) crew for a week. Before I knew it I had left Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and was on my way to San Diego, Calif., where Chief Gratton met me at the airport. He and his wife showed me great hospitality over the weekend by inviting me to stay at their home and showing me all the sights, including the base.

On Sunday, I was welcomed aboard the Shiloh by Commanding Officer Capt. Robert D. Liggett, USN. He introduced me to the entire crew during his radio address, and with this warm reception I knew this would turn out to be a fantastic week.

I was taken to a wonderful stateroom, which I shared with a ROTC student, and (by choice) got up every day at 5 a.m. for another interesting day. I have been a chef for 23 years and with regards to kitchens, I thought I had seen it all – but I was wrong. On this ship MSs prepare 1,200 meals a day, in addition to their other collateral duties. The cleanliness of the galleys and mess decks on board ship was impressive (and I keep a very clean kitchen myself). I loved their motto, "if you can lean, you can clean." There is a tremendous amount to do and so little time.

I was right in there with the MS crew, teaching and learning. We shared information all week, and discovered we really aren’t all that different from each other - we all love to cook.

However, in the civilian world, I just run the kitchen. On board ship the MSs were all cooking one minute and reporting to their other duties the next. And of course there are very few stores at sea so the MSs organizational skills are very good. It was fascinating to learn how food gets stored for an extended voyage.

The entire crew made me feel very much at home. I learned a lot from the long talks I had with MSCS Siack and MS1 Fricke. It is very hard to cook under the best conditions, but it is a lot harder to cook on a ship at sea; I’m used to my pots staying in one place. It was a lot of fun when the ship executed hard turns.

Cooking for the same crowd day in and day out can also be tough. So, my ideas as a visitor were received with open arms. My approach was different but the Senior Chief approved, and I am going back in January ... this time better prepared and aware of what to expect.

I can tell you that on a scale from one to 10 my experience was 1,000,000,000. On my first tour aboard ship I visited the bridge, watched the underway operations of the ship and firing of weapons, and observed a refueling and helo landing at sea. I’m really glad to have the opportunity to write this article and express my thanks to the Food Management Team San Diego, MSCS Gratton, Capt. Liggett and the crew of the USS Shiloh, and the Naval Supply Systems Command, all of whom contributed and put together this great and worthwhile program. I had such an awesome experience, I cannot wait to do it again.

Fair winds and following seas.

Navy Supply Corps Newsletter story from the September/October 1999 issue.

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