Ashland's Culinary Specialists Cook Up American Hospitality
5/27/2008 By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mandy Hunsucker, Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs
USS ASHLAND, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Ashland (LSD 48) hosted three dignitary receptions and two VIP lunches, April 8-15, which
included serving over 700 guests in support of U.S. 6th Fleet's Southeast Africa Task Force Maritime Security Operations.
"These high visibility receptions and luncheons for ambassadors, national leadership, host nation military leadership and hundreds
of other high-level dignitaries gave Ashland's culinary specialists a chance to really step up their game and display some incredible
talent," said Cmdr. Jeffrey Ward, Ashland's commanding officer. "The cooks are the soul of a ship, and the group of professionals
on board Ashland are the best I have served with. It is great to see such outstanding Sailors who take so much pride in their work."
Senior Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Ken Stallard explained planning each event was key to ensuring its success.
"When you plan a reception you have to make it flow. First, you come up with a menu. Once the menu is approved we decide the
layout," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) John Leonard who oversaw all the receptions. "Then it's about the timing. When
the first guest arrives I want them to see the entire set up, and when the last person leaves, I want them to walk away impressed."
Leonard noted the setup needed to be "natural." First a guest would pick up their plates, utensils and napkins, then the main course
or "meat." They'd move on to the vegetable and cheese trays, and work their way around to the beverage station where, Leonard
explained, they are most likely to congregate.
Among the desserts offered were savarin, sponge cake with a cream cheese filling; Éclairs with a cream cheese filling topped with
chocolate; coconut cake; peanut butter cake with a chocolate ganache topping and strawberry kiwi cake with cream cheese icing.
Stuffed crabs, grilled ribs, spicy buffalo chicken wings, crab bites, meatballs in brown gravy, fried jumbo shrimp, cheese sticks and
jalapeno poppers were served in stations at the first table. The second table offered baskets of fresh bread, an assortment of
gourmet cheeses and crackers along with vegetable trays adorned with match stick carrots, crisp cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and
Running food from the ship's galley to the reception area was where timing was of utmost importance to the CS team.
"The setup and break down was tedious. We had to make sure there was enough of everything which meant we had to inventory
every little thing," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Lakesia Jackson, who was in charge of set up and break down. "It was
very time consuming, but we had to do it."
Ashland's CS team noted the success of the Southeast Africa receptions were due to a team effort and all received praise from their
superiors for a job well done.
"Ashland's food service crew led by Senior Chief Stallard did an incredible job representing the United States during our whirlwind
tour of the islands of Southeast Africa," said Capt. Nicholas Holman, commander of CTF 363 Southeast Africa Task Force. "Their
hospitality, talent and hard work were extremely impressive. We could not have successfully completed our [theater security
cooperation] mission without the support of Ashland's culinary specialists."
"This mission was a prime opportunity for my culinary specialists to show their artistic, hidden culinary skills," said Stallard. "It was
very time consuming for us. We put in a lot of hours and I am very proud of all my culinary specialists for their hard work and
dedication to see the job through."
For more news from the Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group, visit www.navy.mil/local/esg8/.
|Souda Bay, Crete, Greece (March 14, 2008) The Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS
Ashland (LSD 48) is met by tugboats as she arrives at the Marathi NATO Pier Facility for a port
visit. Ashland is homeported at Navy Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va. and is deployed
supporting maritime security operations. U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley (Released)