PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The aroma of chili powder, garlic and fresh seafood wafted through the crowded aft mess decks of aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as the ship held its monthly "Stennis Iron Chef" culinary competition, July 16.
Culinary specialists from the aft galley, forward galley, Chiefs Mess, wardrooms 1, 2, and 3, the flag mess and a special training team led by Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Edward Kulp competed for recognition. Rear Adm. Marcus A. Hitchcock, commander, John C. Stennis Strike Group; Capt. Greg Huffman, John C. Stennis' commanding officer; Capt. Kavon Hakimzadeh, John C. Stennis' executive officer; and Capt. Warren Sisson, commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, judged the carefully crafted entries from the seven teams.
The competition showcases the culinary artistry of John C. Stennis' food service division by affording galley personnel a chance to prepare unique dishes. Judges scored the dishes based on presentation, color, taste, originality and cohesiveness of ingredients.
"It's all about training," said Kulp, from Slatington, Pennsylvania. "We get to come together as a culinary team and try something different. Not only is it for us, but it is also for the morale of the crew."
After more than 90 minutes of sampling each pallet-pleasing plate, the panel of judges reached a consensus and Chief Warrant Officer Robert Compton, John C. Stennis' food service officer, declared wardroom 3 the winner as a crowd of more than 175 Sailors cheered and applauded.
"We made a shrimp tempura with chili-garlic sauce on top of a bed of lemon rice, topped off with a red pepper coulee," said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Sterling, from Louisville, Kentucky. "Wardroom 3 has not won in a really long time, so it is a great feeling."
In addition to bragging rights and a large silver trophy to display in their service area, each member of the winning team -- referred to as "The Fantastic Four" by Compton -- received a Morale, Welfare, and Recreation credit to use aboard the ship and a 24-hour special liberty voucher.
The July cook-off marked the last of the competition series during the ship's 2016 Western Pacific deployment, and the winning team will present their dish at the closing reception of the 2016 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) maritime exercise.
"It means the absolute world to me to win this," said Culinary Specialist Seaman Midas Dawson, from Dallas. "Winning this means we are number one and will be serving our dish to people from 26 countries. This is just everything to me."
John C. Stennis is currently participating in RIMPAC. Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 30 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971.
Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, John C. Stennis is on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.