MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Sgt. Fatimah Butler, assistant chief cook with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, won the Chef of the Quarter competition for her exceptional culinary skills at the mess hall on Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, March 17.
The competitors this quarter were Butler, Cpl. Marisela Olibares, a food service specialist with H&HS, and Lance Cpl. Janibell Martinez, a food service specialist with Marine Wing Support Squadron-271. Olibares received second place, and Martinez received third.
There are four Chef of the Quarter competitions every year in which food specialists can volunteer to compete. The winners from each quarter then battle for the ultimate title at the Chef of the Year competition.
Each of the three chefs picked the food that they wanted to prepare for the four judges. The chef’s prepared a full three-course meal, plated it and presented it by themselves. Each dish the chefs chose represented something about the individual chef.
“My dish was reminiscent of home and of the way my mom used to cook,” said Butler.
The Marines were scored based on food preparation, sanitation, presentation, and of course, how their dishes tasted. Butler cooked a Louisiana-style shrimp etouffee, corn chowder, mixed salad with a cranberry vinaigrette, and bananas foster.
The competitions held throughout the year are geared towards showcasing the Marine’s talent and creativity. The food service specialist’s job does not allow much room for creativity on a daily basis, since their main task is to feed hundreds of hungry Marines every day, and consistency is important.
“In this job, we have to make products a certain way,” said Staff Sgt. Kelvin Tapia, the galley captain at the mess hall. “When this program is opened, it forces the competitors to think outside of the box.”
While Butler’s job is to oversee the other Marines in the galley, her favorite part about the job is teaching Marines how to cook. According to Butler, she strives to set the example whenever she can.
“I enjoy what I do,” said Butler. “But I feel like, more than I like cooking, I like mentoring Marines and teaching them how to have confidence in their work. I always tell them if they wouldn’t eat it, don’t serve it.”
Butler will now move on to the Chef of the Year competition, where she said she will use her knowledge from this competition to bring the heat.
“My leaders have always preached to take pride in your work,” said Butler. “I want to be that leader for up and coming Marines too.”