Vice President, Strategy,
Sodexo North America &
Former Marine Veteran
This weekend, we’ll be celebrating America by saluting the flag and honoring the troops. At Sodexo, we provide food service at many U.S. military installations, and for the past ten years, we’ve been honoring troops in a different way: with a culinary medal.
A few times a year, we hold a friendly competition among the military mess halls across the country to determine which chefs are the most talented. The two-person teams are made up of a military line cook and a civilian Sodexo employee who works on the same base. The winners receive the coveted Culinary Team of the Quarter medal.
It’s not just a chance to represent your base. The program’s goal is to give military cooks a chance to take their culinary experience to a higher level.
“Marines walk away with more than a medal,” said Sodexo Executive Chef and former Executive Chef of Air Force One Fred Johnson III, who is an advisor to the competition. “They have a connection to a professional chef from the civilian world, and that just might inspire them.”
The most recent competition began back in April when the teams were given a list of three ingredients they had to use in their dishes: duck, Yukon potatoes and cauliflower.
Teams began planning their recipes, but when they arrived at the competition at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, they were given an added challenge. Right before the competition, we revealed a “secret” additional ingredient they had to use: pretzels.
The surprise didn’t throw off the winners, Marine Sargent Robert Rivas and Sodexo Cook Maria Rodriguez, who put the pretzels to good use in their Pretzel Crusted Tangerine Duck with Duchess Potatoes and cauliflower.
Each dish was judged on composition, flavor, presentation and creativity, and the teams received a score for their adherence to food safety standards in the kitchen from Sodexo’s Quality Control team.
“We judge each recipe not only on appearance and flavor, but on how safe the teams were as they prepared the ingredients,” said Sodexo Executive Chef John Selick, a 20-year culinary professional from Cleveland, Ohio, who attended this year’s competition to share his food preparation skills and techniques with the military chefs.
Sodexo is committed to improving performance and enhancing quality of life for the individuals, organizations and communities we serve, especially those that serve our country. How are you honoring the troops this Fourth of July? Share your plans in the comments.
Jeff Moore is Vice President of Strategy for Sodexo North America. He is responsible for enhancing customer value creation and establishing long-term goals and strategic objectives. Mr. Moore served as a commissioned officer of Marines for six years; Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm veteran. He received his undergraduate degree in Economics from Auburn University and his Master’s in Business Administration from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.