U.S. Marines and civilian food service specialists competed in the first Quarterly Culinary Competition at the Wallace Creek Mess Hall on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Feb. 12. The competition is held to give the contestants the opportunity to demonstrate their culinary abilities in a competitive environment.

Competitors were given four hours to complete a three-course meal including an appetizer, main entrée and dessert. While in the kitchen, the contestants were held to a high safety standard and judged on cooking fundamentals, organization, use of space and time management.

“Working in the food industry, safety is absolutely paramount,” said retired Master Sgt. Izzy Ali, daily assistant coordinator for Sodexo. “We make sure that every food service specialist maintains good order in keeping their stations neat and having the discipline to honor the sanitation regulations put in place at each chow hall to make sure that the Marines and Sailors that we feed stay healthy and mission ready.”

After the four-hour time limit was up, all contestants prepared for their presentations. The distinguished guests for the competition judged the dishes based on presentation, taste and concept.

Following the presentations, the teams set up tables that represented their chosen themes and provided Marines and distinguished guests who attended samples of their dishes. The guests were given a population poll to vote for their favorite team.

The winners of the competition were Courtney Naro and Sompone Douangdra, both Sodexo food service specialists representing the French Creek dining facility located on MCB Camp Lejeune. In addition to first place, the team also won the best table award and the people’s choice award.

“We represent the people who work incredibly hard to make sure that we provide good food and service to the service members all year around,” Naro said. “It feels good to be able to represent my location and get recognition for our hard work.”