I joined the Navy right after high school to travel and to learn a trade. After spending part of my first tour as a seaman apprentice working in the mess hall, I discovered that cooking was what I wanted to do. My first assignment was on the USS Waldron in Norfolk, VA, where I worked in the ship’s galley.
Through the Navy, I went to cooking school to learn more about menu planning, nutrition, and cooking skills. After cooking school, my career really took off. I had the opportunity to work in the bakery at the Naval Hospital in Guam. I was promoted to Petty Officer First Class and spent three years managing the inventory of a commissary store. I was not sure if my career in the Navy was going anywhere, but after some friendly advice from my Chief, I decided not to leave. My decision paid off.
Then, I was assigned to the USS O’Callahan to be in charge of running the entire mess. At that time, I was also promoted to Chief Petty Officer. The most important day of my career was the day that I put on the hat, signifying that I had become a chef.
A few years later, I was senior chef on the USS New Orleans. I managed a 35-person staff that fed 580 crew members and, at times, 1,800 Marines (nearly 7,000 meals a day). Aboard my last ship, the USS Wadsworth, I went on a 7-month cruise of the South Pacific, with stops in Hawaii, Guam, Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa. I have spent the past several years as a food services supervisor on different ships and have done what I wanted to do—learn to cook and travel around the world.