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Submarine Cuisine


Jason Perlow
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Bubbleheadchef, could you post a sample week's menu?  Also, how many sailors can eat at a time in  Virginia's mess? And how many "seatings" do you have daily?

I assume also you don't have to boil water or keep water, since the Virginia has a desalination system and instant-hot water as a byproduct of the turbine and nuclear reactor heat exchange, right?

I will try to get an electronic version of the menu and post it, if somebody could tell me how to post something that big. On a typical underway day, we usually serve about 400 covers daily with the guys eating in 26 at a time for about an hour every six hours four times a day. The ship makes its own water, but we do have to boil it as we don't use the water from the plant for hot water. It is basically the same as at home but on much larger scale.

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Thanks for posting - This is very interesting. I have an old menu from a Christmas Dinner from my dad's old army days but to be honest I never really thought about cooking on a sub. I appreciate your taking time to post.

What about breakfast time? It sounds like people are eating at all times of the day and night. If someone comes off "shift" (I don't know the term) and it is morning but for them it is "time for dinner" or the opposite - do they just eat what is there or do you make special things for them? Does that make sense?

And what if someone wants to come into the kitchen and cook something for themselves - can they?

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Thank you so much for answering these questions!  THis is a fascinating topic.

I was wondering about air quality in the kitchen.  What kind of filtration system does a sub kitchen use?  With 4 meals a day it must get quite a workout.

The air quality is better than you will find in most restaurants with the 3 exhaust fans we have running plus the air conditioning blowing in. We do have to clean it regularly since we certainly dont have the luxury of night porters and don't want fires in the ventilation system.

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Will you please describe your training as a navy cook, and explain if you receive any specialized training for the submarine force in addition?

My story is a bit different from the majority of navy cooks. I started in the business at 13, washing dishes and bussing tables. I started waiting tables and running banquets when I was 15. I wasnt the greatest student in high school, so they put me in a vocational school where I took a 2 year course in culinary arts that opened my eyes to the rest of the business. I finally graduated and went to J&W for a semester and remembered that I wasn't much of a student and went to New York City for a year and then back to the Shenendoah Valley in Virginia. I worked a variety of food service jobs (family restaurant, a 3 star B&B, catering, and the dreaded chain restaurant, Chili's). After a couple months of that, I decided I wanted to see the world and try my hand at new things. My father and grandfather both were in submarines (neither was a cook, but we wont hold that against them) so it occured to me that they all need to eat in the Navy and I wont have to sleep in a ditch and get shot at, so I signed up.

Once I joined the navy, I went to boot camp in Great Lakes, IL and then to San Antonio, TX for my formal military training. I spent 6 weeks in school learning the various aspects of being a military cook (all in all not an impressive course of instruction, we spent an entire day learning how to chop an onion). I then reported to my first ship, an aircraft carrier, and went on a deployment to support the no fly zones in Southern Iraq. I volunteered for submarine duty and they sent me to Groton, CT for Basic Enlisted Submarine School and upon completion reported to a one week course in Submarine Food Service. Again, not entirely impressive, but it gave us a chance to go down and see some submarines and get used to what we will be dealing with in the VERY near future. I then reported to my first submarine in Kings Bay, GA, the USS Kentucky. That is where I learned the most about my job. My leading Cook at that point ( I was still pretty junior in paygrade) had just come from 8 years at the White House cooking for Presidents Bush and Clinton. Before I left that boat we had been awarded the ADM Ney Award for the Best Food Service in the Submarine Force two years in a row. After that I went to shore duty in Naples, Italy working as Private Chef (Flag Mess Leading Petty Officer in Navy Jargon) for various Admirals in Southern Italy. After I finished my tour there, I reported aboard the USS Virginia. To get back to the original question, as you can see here, most of what you learn, you learn on the job. Please excuse the ramble!!!

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I love the ramble. And, first I want to thank you for your service.

Now a question . . . I noticed earlier that you mentioned doing several things with one cut of beef, for example. Seeing how much you might have to make do without a purveyor down the street, what do you consider your most versatile cuts of meat or other ingredients?

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Do the officers have their own mess on the Virginia or is that just stuff you see in the movies?

Yes, the officers have their own mess called the wardroom but they eat the same food the enlisted guys do. However, the crew eats cafeteria style and officers eat a more russian style service. We plate the salad for them (either a tossed or composed salad, depending on what we have). When they are finished with soup and salad, we place the food in serving dishes and serve the Captain, the Executive Officer (XO), and then the XO passes the dish around the table.

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One of the instructors in my culinary school got his start as a British navy chef. Do you ever get a chance to hang out with other military chefs, US or international? Do you keep in touch? What have you learned from talking with them?

Do you get tired of the 5-week menu repetition? Do you ever change it after you're at sea?

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You're not rambling -- we love details!

What are the meals that are the big favorites, year in and out? And how do you handle Thanksgiving? I'm sure that many of us who complained about serving ten or twelve people will stand in awe! :biggrin:

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Thanks for posting - This is very interesting. I have an old menu from a Christmas Dinner from my dad's old army days but to be honest I never really thought about cooking on a sub. I appreciate your taking time to post.

What about breakfast time? It sounds like people are eating at all times of the day and night. If someone comes off "shift" (I don't know the term) and it is morning but for them it is "time for dinner" or the opposite - do they just eat what is there or do you make special things for them? Does that make sense?

And what if someone wants to come into the kitchen and cook something for themselves - can they?

The meals are served every 6 hours with Bfast at 5 to 6 am, lunch from 11 am-12pm, dinner from 5-6 pm, and a midnight ration (MidRats) from 11pm-12am. The first half of the meal is reserved for the guys coming on watch (shift) they eat and relieve then the off going guys come down and eat. We joke that the only way you know what time it is (because of the lack of sunlight) is by what meal is being served. If somebody wants to come in and cook something, I am pretty liberal about that, but it cant interfere with putting out the meal for my cooks because we really do run a really tight schedule sometimes. A lot of guys will come in and help put out pizzas on Saturday nights.

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Bubblehead, my wife, a retired HMC (SW) confirms that sub chow is the best chow in the Navy. She was an IDC, and when she was stationed at San Diego and Bangor, would often go out on the boomers or attack boats sea trials or familiarization cruises when they had female guests or tech reps aboard. She said that when she had to do the sanitation checks that the cooks would often ply her with something new that they were trying out!

For the non-Navy types among us, HMC means that she was a chief petty officer in the hospital corpsman rating, SW means that she was qualified in surface warfare, and an IDC is an independent duty corpsman, a sort of sea-going physicians assistant that provides the medical care aboard remote shore stations and smaller ships such as destroyers, frigates and submarines. No females are assigned as crew aboard US Navy submarines, and a submarine is always referred to as a boat, not a ship.

Edited by MGLloyd (log)

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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For those of you interested in what the mess hall of an attack sub looks like, there is a photo of the one aboard the USS Tucson, SSN-770, a Los Angeles class, towards the middle of this page:

http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/08770b.htm

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I love the ramble. And, first I want to thank you for your service.

Now a question . . . I noticed earlier that you mentioned doing several things with one cut of beef, for example. Seeing how much you might have to make do without a purveyor down the street, what do you consider your most versatile cuts of meat or other ingredients?

Most versatile meats: Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, Boneless Center Cut Pork Chops, Ribeye Roll, and Ground Beef. If you give me those 4 meats I can make 35 different entrees and not repeat once.

For instance, I can use the ribeye for grilled ribeye steaks, Beef Yakisoba (strips of beef with Spaghetti, its FABULOUS!), beef cordon bleu, Beef Stew, a pot roast, roast beef, steak and cheese sandwiches, etc.

The chicken (always brined!): Chicken Cordon Bleu, Sweet and Sour chicken, Sczechwan Chicken with angel hair pasta, fried chicken, grilled Italian chicken sandwiches, etc

Pork (again, always brined): citrus pork chops, sweet and sour pork, pulled pork BBQ, etc

Ground Beef I think goes with out saying.

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One of the instructors in my culinary school got his start as a British navy chef. Do you ever get a chance to hang out with other military chefs, US or international? Do you keep in touch? What have you learned from talking with them?

Do you get tired of the 5-week menu repetition? Do you ever change it after you're at sea?

I met quite a few chefs while overseas, including a scottish chef that I consider to be one of my closest personal friends. I met a lot of other services chefs and have ridden other countries' submarines and gotten and idea and traded tricks with every one of them. I try to keep in touch, but with my schedule it kind of precludes many relationships out side the ship.

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Do you get tired of the 5-week menu repetition? Do you ever change it after you're at sea?

YES!!!! I try to change it up as often as I can, but when you cant run to the grocery store, it makes it hard to change the menu on a whim and all changes need to be carefully planned.

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Just thought of another question.

I notice that you have worked the kitchen on an aircraft carrier and now submarines. It occurs to me that you have seen the absolute extremes as to size and limitations that would occur in Navy cooking. Does anything really stand out for you as to the differences?

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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You're not rambling -- we love details!

What are the meals that are the big favorites, year in and out? And how do you handle Thanksgiving? I'm sure that many of us who complained about serving ten or twelve people will stand in awe! :biggrin:

I have found that the guys typically enjoy the foods they are used to seeing at home, like beef stew or sandwiches. I try to broaden horizons and make italian food or chinese, but it gets quite difficult to please 150 guys all the time. Thanksgiving/Christmas/Holiday meals are always difficult and I always take inputs from the guys. We try to make a little bit of everything from around the country and I am constantly looking for new ideas to add to our repetoire.

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Bubblehead, my wife, a retired HMC (SW) confirms that sub chow is the best chow in the Navy.  She was an IDC, and when she was stationed at San Diego and Bangor, would often go out on the boomers or attack boats sea trials or familiarization cruises when they had female guests or tech reps aboard.  She said that when she had to do the sanitation checks that the cooks would often ply her with something new that they were trying out! 

For the non-Navy types among us, HMC means that she was a chief petty officer in the hospital corpsman rating, SW means that she was qualified in surface warfare, and an IDC is an independent duty corpsman, a sort of sea-going physicians assistant that provides the medical care aboard remote shore stations and smaller ships such as destroyers, frigates and submarines. No females are assigned as crew aboard US Navy submarines, and a submarine is always referred to as a boat, not a ship.

When the Doc is in the space, gotta keep them happy. We are very sanitary, but if thier mouths are full, they really dont look in those dark corners that we may have missed during clean up.

I'll also explain my title. I am a CSC (SS) meaning Culinary Specialist Chief the SS the designator for Submarines Quailified. I am also the Supply Department Enilisted Advisor which means I am also in charge of the Storekeepers who deal in all of our repair parts, maintenance parts, etc. They don't have anything to do with food, but we are all one Supply family.

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And if after reading this thread, you would like to try cooking the Navy way, then go to this site US Navy recipes for approximately 1500 recipes at the Naval Logistics Library recipe repository. Please note that the recipes are typically for 100 servings, so you may have to scale up or down depending on the number of teenagers in the house.

The recipes look pretty darn good, and they can be just the thing if SUBRON 9 drops in during Fleet Week or something....

Edited by MGLloyd (log)

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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Just thought of another question.

I notice that you have worked the kitchen on an aircraft carrier and now submarines. It occurs to me that you have seen the absolute extremes as to size and limitations that would occur in Navy cooking. Does anything really stand out for you as to the differences?

When I was on the Aircraft Carrier (USS Theodore Roosevelt CVN 71), I was the lowliest of the low in paygrade (E-1) so a lot of went on they thought I was too junior to need to know. After they found out that I was actually a trained chef, they put me in charge of the Captains Galley.

The biggest difference to note is that through really no fault of thier own, the food on carriers just S**KS!!! When you are cooking for almost 6000 people, you cannot spend the requisite time to prepare the highest quality food. Whereas on a a submarine you have one guy cooking for only 150. Makes a pretty big difference. The other main difference, in my OPINION, is that the submarine cooks tend to care more. But that may be because A) the level of knowledge is higher (higher requirements to join the submarine force) and B) as the only guy in kitchen, if you don't give it your best effort, you will hear about it for (what seems like) the rest of your life. But the level of "care" the guys put into the food is obviously higher than anywhere else in the Military.

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And if after reading this thread, you would like to try cooking the Navy way, then go to this site US Navy recipes for approximately 1500 recipes at the Naval Logistics Library recipe repository. 

The recipes look pretty darn good, and they can be just the thing if SUBRON 9 drops in during Fleet Week or something....

Those are the Infamous Navy Recipe Cards. The product they make is usually not a "bad" product, but certainly not something I would serve to, say, POTUS. I use them frequently as a guideline for something I would like to make and using it for load planning. For instance, the card will show me that I need 35 lbs of beef for 100 portions of something. Then I can add plan for however many times it is on the menu and multiply accordingly.

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When my wife did two IDC tours on Spruance-class destroyers, the XO typically came down before service and sampled the food before it went on the line. If the XO thought it was not acceptable, it had to be pulled off. Does this happen on subs as well?

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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but certainly not something I would serve to, say, POTUS

The "POTUS" aside :laugh: , Who is the highest ranking officer you've ever served a meal to?

I have served POTUS, VPOTUS, Chief Of Naval Operations, SECDEF Rumsfeld and most of the Undersecretary's oF Defense (there are like 100000000000 of them), most of the flag officers (Admirals and Generals) in the European Theater, the Prime Ministers and Defense Ministers of: UK, Latvia, Finland, Italy. Beacause of the nature of new submarine developement, we serve a lot of "money people" because they are always curious about where the money is being spent. And we put on a great show for them. When I was overseas, we will still launching Tomahawks at the bad guys, and my boss was in charge of all the submarines,so I got to work with a lot of the heavy hitters in the DoD.

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