NEW ORLEANS — Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Larry Burns, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), and a team of Navy chefs participated in the 2023 American Culinary Federation Student Team of the Year cooking competition in New Orleans.
The competition this summer featured students from culinary schools across the nation and included a U.S. Navy team comprised of six Sailors stationed in Virginia and California.
Essex, meanwhile, is dry docked in San Diego conducting a maintenance period to upgrade and refurbish many key systems aboard.
Armed Forces Student Team of the Year
Burns, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and his team were invited to compete in the American Culinary Federation competition following their first place overall performance at the Joint Culinary Training Exercise in March in Washington, D.C. It was there they were awarded the awarded Armed Forces Student Team of the Year.
“It was really impressive watching him go from best in the region, to best in the Navy, then best in the armed forces,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeremy Domagalski, Essex’s food service officer. “After all that, they were selected to compete in the American Culinary Federation, which set them against all of the best culinary schools from across the United States competing at the highest levels.”
The Navy team first met each other during the Joint Culinary Training Exercise, and later prepared for the American Culinary Federation competition together at the McLaughlin Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, the military’s cooking school in Fort Lee, Virginia.
The chefs spent days practicing to prepare their dishes and work cohesively as a team.
“Working with my team was great,” said Burns. “We have a lot of really strong personalities, but I feel like we were able to come together when it meant the most.”
Doing the little things perfectly
Burns explained that his philosophy when cooking is focusing on doing the little things perfectly because that technical mindset will prepare you for bigger things.
Culinary Specialist 1st Class DeRhon Finch, the team manager for the Navy team at the American Culinary Federation , assigned to USS Mustin (DDG 89), emphasized Burns’ determination and recalled his experience with Burns leading up to the competition.
“He’s a very strong minded person, he knows what he wants and what his expectations are,” said Finch. “If he sets his mind to something, then it’s going to get done.”
Following the competition, Burns was recognized for his performance and dedication among his peers. He was selected to represent the U.S. Navy in the upcoming Culinary Olympics, the largest international event of culinary arts, in Germany in February 2024.