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Mess Management Specialists Learn Culinary Arts from Renowned Chef

By JO1 (AW) Kori Ahola
USS George Washington Public Affairs

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NWS) -- His salt and pepper hair shows beneath his flouncy white hat. He pushes on his glasses habitually as he reads to a class of 40 eager students. The students listen intently to his rich baritone as he speaks about French culinary terms, in a slight German accent.

"French is the language of the kitchen," said Guenther Reetz, on board USS George Washington (CVN 73) as part of the Navy's Chef-at-Sea program. Reetz is teaching much more than just French terms. He's an instructor from First Coast Technical Center, formerly St. Augustine Technical Center, St. Augustine, Fla., on board, instructing in all facets of food service, whether in the classroom or in one of the seven galleys.

"A lot of people take food for granted," said CWO3 Cedric Davis, GW's food service officer. "But when in a large environment like this, you have to be much more careful. One single drop of cleaning compound in some food 
could disable half the crew with diarrhea. That's why he's teaching sanitation as the initial class."

Sanitation is only one of four classes he's teaching to GW's mess specialists. He's also providing instruction in nutrition, supervision and professional cooking. Completion of his courses offers more than just knowledge; students will receive a certificate and credit as a certified chef.

Teaching is nothing new to the 57-year-old veteran chef. He's a certified executive chef, a certified culinary educator and is one of only 700 chefs worldwide to be inducted into the American Academy of Chefs.

"I get the biggest charge out of being able to pass on what I know to others," said Reetz.

Something else that Reetz knows about is traveling aboard ship.

"I was 18 years old when I joined a Swedish cruise line and made two 10-and-a-half month cruises that helped to take me around the world," Reetz said. "After joining the pilot program for the Chef-at-Sea program in 1992 on board USS Saratoga, I've traveled and taught classes on board five different carriers, and have had the opportunity to experience the cuisine in almost every culture. I'm really looking forward to going back to Turkey, as their foods are very unique."

Most of the students in his class are some of the more junior mess specialists and a little bit younger than the man they simply call "The Chef," but the age difference doesn't bother him.

"I started an apprenticeship program at the age of 14," the Cologne, Germany native said with a smile. "Back when I was young, chefs didn't share their recipes; you had to `steal with your eyes' in order to learn what you could. I find that I still learn things each and every day and try to share some of that knowledge."

The chef is here for the entire deployment and although he won't make an immediate impact on the culinary skills of some of his students in the classroom until mid-cruise, other mess specialists are benefiting from his expertise already.

"He showed me a quick and easy way to make a garnish with an orange that only took 15 minutes to make," said MS3 John McDaniels, a cook in the Chief Petty Officer's Mess. "Presentation really adds to how well your food is received, and color and decorations make the eating experience a little more palatable."

"I was a student of his when I was stationed at NAS Key West, Fla.," said MS1 (AW) Arthur Browning, GW's Chief Petty Officer's Mess galley captain and berthing petty officer. "That was five years ago and now I run into him aboard GW, which gives me the opportunity to ask him all kinds of 
questions that have come to mind. Chef is a wealth of knowledge. It's interesting talking shop aboard a carrier. Pilots have their own jargon, and when a couple chefs get together, we lapse into a lingo that most people just can't follow."

So if you see a man in a chef's jacket, covered in Navy patches of some of the ships he's been on in the past, and have a question about the art of cooking, don't hesitate to say, "Hi Chef."

He'll welcome the chance to share his knowledge.

Navy News Wire story NWS07jul-16, dated July 7, 2000.

August 2000

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