Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “ From the Homefront ,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, chief of the office of aviation forces at Coast Guard headquarters, for 16 years. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Military Family Advisory Network .
Written by Shelley Kimball
It’s November, and I have cooking on my mind. I bet you do, too. So I called in some reinforcements.
I tracked down Coast Guard cooking experts and asked for Thanksgiving tips and recipes. They really outdid themselves. We’ve got enough recipes to make a full Thanksgiving dinner, with some tips and advice thrown in for good measure.
Cooking for their Coast Guard families, both the literal ones and the figurative ones is not just passion for food service specialists, but a way to take care of people.
“I believe a common theme for our food service specialists is that we want to be of service. Cooking for others. What does that really mean? It means that you put your heart into something that you prepare with your own hands and want to share with others,” said Master Chief Katrina Goguen, the food service program’s strategic planning specialist. “Whether it is with family or with community, it’s about doing good and being kind to each other through food.”
There are about 1,200 food service specialists and 370 dining facilities in the Coast Guard. Goguen’s job is to help to develop and maintain the policies that will keep that program afloat now and in the future.
That also means that food service specialists are judged on their performance three times a day, every day — a challenge that can be both rewarding and stressful. She said she encourages those cooking for others to put their best dish forward with confidence that it can be the meal that makes a difference.
“You never know when your shipmate can be having the worst day,” Goguen said. “For them to come through the line and brighten their day with a favorite meal or just some warm comfort food to help alleviate the hardship or stress they may be going through,” Goguen said.
Coast Guard food service specialists have made a name for themselves from the White House to the executive dining facility at the Department of Homeland Security. They have won gold medals at international cooking competitions, like the Culinary World Olympics and at the American Culinary Federation, where they have won more than 200 medals in the past seven years. They have also appeared on Food network shows like Extreme Chef and Chopped, and on talk shows celebrating Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. And because of that, Coast Guard food specialists are in demand.
“The expertise of Coast Guard food service specialists have been recognized and admired by other services, and we are frequently requested by other government agencies to assist in food service opportunities,” said Master Chief Justin Reed, the food service specialist rating force master chief. “These opportunities include supporting events at the White House kitchen, Joint Chairman’s quarters and the Navy Mess located at the White House.”
The primary focus of Reed’s job is managing the structure of the food service specialist workforce while making sure the specialists themselves are prepared and ready to support current and future needs of the Coast Guard. Reed also gets to provide advanced culinary training at units he visits.
“Although this is not a requirement, I take every opportunity I can to train fellow food service specialists on culinary techniques,” he said. “I do this to share the knowledge and experience I’ve gained over the years – I won’t be in uniform forever – and hope that they will pay it forward to other specialists someday. Learning and training on culinary techniques is a never-ending process.”
That planning and training goes beyond what is on the plate. Good food equals high moral, Reed said, and food service specialists work hard to make that a reality for their fellow Coasties.
“Food is a necessity when it comes to the success of completing Coast Guard missions, as both a source of nutrition as well as simply enjoying a hot meal after a long day, returning from a search and rescue, law enforcement mission, or the completion of a patrol,” he said. “Dedicated and skilled food service specialists make this happen.”
And, like anywhere else, good food means enjoyment and memories around the Thanksgiving table. Reed offers some of his favorite tips for a successful holiday dinner:
- To ensure leftovers are available, cook a heavier turkey, make a little more stuffing, mashed potatoes, and make sure there is a lot of gravy. You wont regret it the next day.
- Try to make the entire dinner from scratch. You will find it more enjoyable and will hone your culinary skills for a future dinner.
- Rub the interior of the turkey with concentrated chicken base (such as Knorr) or a homemade chicken-stock reduction and butter.
- If you leave your turkey unwrapped overnight in refrigerator, the skin on your turkey will be crispier (if you like to eat the turkey skin).
- Break tradition and try cooking a new vegetable for Thanksgiving. Try frying Brussels sprouts, or roast your carrots in the oven at 400 degrees.
At home or away, a great meal is at the center of holiday celebrations — even when active duty members have to miss out on family celebrations. Goguen said she always participates in her units’ in morale committees, and they plan menus and activities months in advance.
“Being in the Coast Guard for over 24 years, there have been many holidays missed with my family,” Goguen said. “Although it wasn’t great to be away, I have always felt the Coast Guard as my second family. Having been able to spend holidays with shipmates and friends is second best! Food is a big staple when there is a celebration taking place.”
Give these recipes a try this Thanksgiving!
What are your favorite tips or recipes for Thanksgiving? Share them below.
The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.