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Chili Cook-off heats up Marine Corps cuisine

Marine Corps cooks from across the West Coast competed, head-to-head, in Sodexo’s first Regional Chili Cook-Off Competition at Camp Pendleton’s 41 Area Mess Hall, May 11.

Civilian and Marine food service specialists brewed only their best chili in hopes of winning the contest and having their recipe served at all of the Sodexo dining facilities on the West Coast.

“It’s a great opportunity for the regional cooks to come together and work side-by-side,” said Rich Kassabian, Sodexo operations manager for the Camp Pendleton district.

Six different Marine Corps Installations were represented during the cook-off, including Marine Recruit Depot San Diego; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar; Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz .; Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif .; and Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif.

The regional competition’s preliminary rounds, held several weeks ago, eliminated all but three civilian cooks from surrounding bases. The finalists were Sandra Malina from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif .; Marc Murphey from Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego; and Bassel Henry from Camp Pendleton’s 22 Area Mess Hall.

“It’s a fun experience, but I was really anxious to hear the judges announced the winner,” said Murphey.

After the judges tasted all entries, they announced Murphey’s original style chicken-chili recipe as the winner of the cook-off. His chili will now be served at all Sodexo dining facilities on the West Coast.

“I’ll be doing this next year,” said Murphey. “And I don’t plan on changing my recipe at all.”

Henry was awarded second place with a traditional style chili and Malina’s Texas-style recipe took third.

“The competition brings food services recognition because, now, the chili we serve is award winning,” said Retired Lt. Col. Bruce Bancroft, Sodexo’s regional oversight manager, Marine Corps Installation West. “The Marine Corps was never known for its cuisine, but we’re attempting to transpire our selections and make a conscious decision to improve the quality of our foods.”

The chili cook-off is expected to become an annual event that continues to bring the six Marine Corps installations together, giving the regional cooks a healthy competitive spirit, said Bancroft.

“The talent of our cooks continually amazes me,” said Bancroft. “All we need to do is give them the opportunity to exhibit their ability.”

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