By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brian Sloan
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Mar. 12, 2014) – Culinary Specialists (CS) stationed aboard U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) had a unique opportunity to train with a professional chef, courtesy of the Adopt-a-Ship Program, March 7-19.
Leslie Bilderback, a professional chef who has appeared on The Food Network channel and has worked as a culinary instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Los Angeles for more than a decade, shared her culinary expertise by giving Blue Ridge CS’s hands-on training during her visit to the ship.
Bilderback used her experience as a certified master baker to focus her lessons on all aspects of the dining experience, including techniques for soups, sauces, meats and vegetables.
“These days, so many people want to be chefs, but only so many people can afford to go to a conventional culinary school, so it’s very limited,” said Bilderback. “Training in the Navy is a great situation because you get paid, you have all the necessary equipment, and the Sailors are especially eager to learn, so it’s a win-win situation.”
The CS’s who attended Bilderback’s lessons relished the opportunity to enhance their culinary skills with the renowned expert in the culinary arts.
“I feel honored by this opportunity to learn from a seasoned chef,” said Culinary Specialist Seaman Dearra Horton. “Her lessons definitely brought everyone’s skill set to the next level.”
During Bilderback’s visit, the CS’s had the opportunity to apply their professional knowledge by serving the crew a variety of pastries they prepared, utilizing the techniques and recipes they learned under Bilderback’s tutelage.
“It was great to be able to provide our crew with such an enjoyable and civilian-like dining experience,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Calvin Brown. “Everyone seemed to enjoy the variety and quality of treats, and I personally enjoyed my time learning from Chef Bilderback.”
The Adopt-a-Ship program has operated through Naval Supply Systems Command since 1998 to provide continuing education to CS’s. The program brings civilian chefs and culinary instructors aboard U.S. Navy ships to give Sailors hands-on lessons.