Marines from Marine Corps Air Station New River’s Mess hall competed in and won the Chef of the Quarter competition on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, March 28. It was Cpl. Reggina Dixon and Lance Cpl. Samantha MangiaSosa’s first time at the competition.
"It felt really nice (to win first place.) I was shocked because the competitors had done the competition before and had more experience," said Dixon, food service specialist at the station. "I was a little shaky but I felt good knowing that I had a good cook with me."
The team prepared a meal with an Italian theme. Dixon and MangiaSosa had mostly cooked southern and South American food respectively.
"It was pretty funny (watching them prepare for the tournament). Mangiasosa is from South America and Dixon is from South Carolina. Their style of what they eat for dinner is different. One eats southern food. The other eats Hispanic food," said Staff Sgt. Laron Murray, assistant Marine liaison. "At first they were trying to come up with a theme and they couldn’t find one right away. They came up with a Valentine’s theme and tried mixing southern food and Hispanic food. When they finally found their theme it took them out of their element. It was Italian food and neither one of them is Italian so they researched."
The Marines served Insalata Di Uova (egg salad) as an appetizer. The main dish was Salsiccia & Zucchine Infornare and Hash Di Patate (baked sausage and zucchini and potato hash.) For desert they served Rotolo Dolce which is a sweet roll (cannoli). They paired the meal with a virgin pomegranate Sangria.
"We had two weeks to prepare. On the day of the competition, that’s when we show our talents. For four hours pretty much we’re cooking this whole meal that we’ve practiced," said MangiaSosa, food service specialist at the station.
The competition is broken down into two sections — a written exam and the preparation of the meal. Marines and Sodexo employees are eligible to participate in the competition.
"We made an exam which was a knowledge test on basic things that everybody should know as (food service specialists). We got second place against another team (from Camp Lejeune in the written test,)" said MangiaSosa. "We ended up winning first place by getting picked as the best dish by all four teams."
Participating in the competition has helped inspire other Marines to learn about their job. It has helped boost unit morale.
"When I first got here the Marines didn’t want to do (the competition). They weren’t really motivated until myself, Gunnery Sgt. Nathan Nagler and Gunnery Sgt. Lenard Tilley stepped on deck. I wanted (Dixon and MangiaSosa) to do it so when the Marines go out there, they want to do it as well," said Murray. "When they saw (Dixon and MangiaSosa) win, now everyone wants to do it. They love the (response.) The generals, sergeants major and colonels came out, shook their hand and said, ‘Hey I really appreciate what you did. I would love to see more of this.’ When they saw that, and people laughing and smiling at the food, I think that really motivated them."
The next competition is for Chef of the Year. The team hopes to compete again later this year.
"We wouldn’t have been able to get as far without our command. They were behind us every step of the way," said Dixon. "They pushed us to work hard during and outside of work."