Enjoying a holiday meal isn’t always possible for service members, but the staff at the Naval Support Facility Indian Head Galley provided Marines and Sailors with a taste of home at a scrumptious Thanksgiving lunch Nov. 21. A lot of love went into the meal, which featured clam chowder, roast turkey, spiral baked ham, shrimp cocktail, seasoned mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cornbread dressing, sweet potatoes, corn and of course, lots of desserts. The galley also catered to retired military members and civilians employees, who lined up to enjoy the feast.
Preparation for the special meal began the night before and continued after breakfast, with galley staff washing, chopping, cooking and decorating. As the lunch hour drew near, reinforcements arrived in the form of additional galley employees. By 10 a.m., the pace in the kitchen reached a crescendo as the staff buzzed, completing a long list of last-minute tasks.
Marines and Sailors assigned to the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force arrived as soon as the galley doors opened; a second wave of civilians arrived an hour later. When it was over, galley staff had served 204 pounds of turkey and 103 pounds of ham. By all accounts, the food was delicious, the portions generous and the urge to nap after the meal overwhelming. In other words, the galley accomplished its mission with gusto.
“I know they’re away from home,” said Beverly Keys, lead cook at the NSF Indian Head Galley, describing her love for her service member customers. “I consider them my family. You get to know them on a personal level by talking to them every day. We do anything we can to make them feel comfortable, make them feel happy and make them feel like they are home, even though they’re away.”
Keys’ love of cooking is a family affair and she credits her role models for much of her culinary success. “My Aunt Ruth, my Aunt Mary and of course my grandmother, who spoiled me rotten and always had me in the kitchen when I was growing up,” she said.
While preparing a large holiday meal is no small task, Keys said the galley’s team work makes it all possible. “The ordering of the food. we have to do the math to figure out how many portions of food we need to prepare,” she said, “[but] the challenges aren’t too bad because we all pool together and work as a team to get the job done. We channel all our energy together.”
Of course, it isn’t just civilian employees whose efforts make special meals possible. Keys said the considerable experience of the culinary specialist Sailors assigned to the galley makes a big impact. “When they come [here] from deployment, they’re willing to come in and jump right in there,” she said. “They have no problem doing anything, from the smallest task to the largest task. The civilians and the military work well together; we’re a great team. I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
That feeling is mutual for the Sailors at the galley. “We’re fortunate that we have a great civilian staff,” said Culinary Specialist Chief Petty Officer Corey Glenn, food service officer.
Serving civilians is something the galley hasn’t done in several years and though it required extra work, Glenn said he and the galley staff were inspired by the challenge. The galley served another special lunch available to service members and civilians in October for the Navy’s birthday, a meal that was also a delicious success. “Before this year, the galley didn’t serve civilians and didn’t really know what to expect from civilians,” he said. “There are a lot of extra things that go into [special meals] behind the scenes, like the planning process. We do a cost analysis first. Once we figure out how we can break even, we implement a menu. Then the marketing part kicks in. That’s the easy part.”
“The hard part is putting a product out and getting 400 or 500 customers through the line at a quick rate within a two hour period, but these guys are professional and they’re great at it,” Glenn continued.
Glenn appreciated the opportunity to compete against civilian restaurants and expand on the skills he learned while deployed. “[Shore duty is] one of the few times in the Navy you get to practice your leadership, management and business skills all together at once,” he said.
Though providing service members and Navy civilians with an outstanding holiday meal requires a lot of planning, coordination and good old-fashioned hard work, it is also highly rewarding. Glenn understands more than most the importance of serving those who serve.
“Put it this way, this is the first time in my Navy career that I’ll be able to be home for Thanksgiving,” he said, smiling. “Thanksgiving and Christmas meals are the most important meals you’ll serve in your Navy career as a [culinary specialist]. Those two meals are when you really get to do something special for your customers. that’s what I enjoy most.”