Culinary challenge pits chef against chef

Chef Cameron Lewark hands out special spice blends and chats with Culinary Specialist Seaman Tony Wilson, USS O'Kane. O'Kane was the winner of the first DESRON 31 "Top Chef" competition.

Chef Cameron Lewark hands out special spice blends and chats with Culinary Specialist Seaman Tony Wilson, USS O’Kane. O’Kane was the winner of the first DESRON 31 “Top Chef” competition.

Story and photo by Brandon Bosworth

Staff Writer

Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 31 held its second “Top Chef” culinary competition April 8.

Competitors from five ships-USS Chafee, USS Hopper, USS O’Kane, USS Michael Murphy and USS Halsey-entered their culinary creations. Chafee, Hopper and O’Kane also participated in the inaugural DESRON “Top Chef” competition in December 2012. Michael Murphy and Halsey were first-time contestants at the April contest.

The rules of the completion were simple. Chefs were given three ingredients they had to use in their dishes. The ingredients this time around were curry powder, peanut butter and pecans. The ship’s chefs didn’t know what the ingredients would be until they were delivered to their galleys shortly before the start of the event. Ingredients were chosen at random.

From three ingredients, the chefs created a wide range of different dishes. The array of meals included spinach pecan salad, chicken and shrimp curry, peanut butter chicken mole, risotto stuffed peppers, grilled chicken breast with curry and balsamic vinegar fragrant peanut butter pecan noodles, curried spinach, pecan rice pilaf, and fragrant curry rice. Deserts ranged from peanut butter bread puddings with pecans to peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

The three-judge panel consisted of Capt. Wallace Lovely, commodore, DESRON 31; Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Brandon Parry, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet; and Chef Cameron Lewark, manager, Spago Four Seasons Resort Maui.

The judges tried each of the many dishes and chatted with the contestants.

After much discussion and deliberation, the judges made their decision. The winner was the team from USS Halsey (DDG 97), led by Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Larry Lovell. His meal included Thai curry roasted drummettes, pecan roasted vegetables and a peanut butter pudding.

“I was very excited to win,” said Lovell.

He was initially unsure what to do with the ingredients.

“My first thought was, what in the world am I going to make?” he said. “But everything came out real good, with good taste and good texture.”

Lovell also participated in the first DESRON “Top Chef” competition.

The winning team received a trophy, a cookbook, and an assortment of spices and other special cooking ingredients.

Lovely came up with the idea for the “Top Chef” competition last year. He noticed that enthusiasm for the event keeps growing.

“Whenever I visit the ships, people ask me when we will be having the next one,” he said.”

Lewark flew in from Maui just to be a judge at the “Top Chef” competition.

“I’m up to do anything involving the U.S. armed services,” he said.

While he has served as a judge at other culinary contests, this is the first one in which he has participated in that was specifically for military chefs. He was pleased with their performance.

“I was very impressed,” Lewark said. “They showed a lot of skill, more than I could have imagined. The food was very well executed.”

Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Brandon Parry was also highly impressed.

“I recently took a team to participate in the Military Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee,” he said. “Any of the chefs here today could compete there.”

Lovely is already looking forward to future DESRON 31 “Top Chef” competitions.

“They keep getting better,” he said. “Round Two was better than round one, and round three will be even better.”

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Category: News