USO Salutes the Military’s Top Chefs

By Joe Lee

When USO Metropolitan Washington sends out the invitations to next year’s annual Salute to Military Chefs event, there will likely be a riot at the Pentagon to get a seat at the table to taste the delectable dishes created by the “top chefs” in the military.

The honorees joined in the kitchen at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City to treat their guests to a delicious seven course meal, paired with wines provided by Brown-Forman Corporation and selected by winemaster Dennis Martin.

The November 17 event, made possible by a generous donation from BMC Software, was held to honor the Department of Defense’s top enlisted chefs and to announce the Enlisted Aide of the Year. This year, there were even some celebrity guests in attendance, including Top Chef contestant, Chef Kevin Gillespie and American Idol season seven finalist, Brooke White.

The “top chef” honorees are nominated by the offices of the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, and by the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This year’s honorees included:

• Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alex Arevalo, nominated by the President of the United States.
• Marine Gunnery Sergeant Andrew Atkinson, nominated by the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
• Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Paul Brown, nominated by the Chief of Naval Operations.
• Air Force Technical Sergeant Erica Coleman, nominated by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
• Navy Senior Chief Derrick Davenport, nominated by the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
• Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Shawna Mayer, nominated by the Vice President of the United States.
• Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Timothy Sullivan, nominated by the Commandant of the Coast Guard.
• Marine Sergeant Anthony White, nominated by the Secretary of Defense.
• Army Staff Sergeant John-Joseph Williams, nominated by the Chief of Staff of the Army.

The enlisted aide’s duties include maintaining the interior and exterior of the general or flag officer’s quarters, keeping their uniforms in order, planning and assisting with the officer’s scheduling, and even acting as their private security officer. But there is only one thing more meticulously prepared than an officer’s uniform or his lawn, and that’s dinner. That is why, first and foremost, every “enlisted aide” to Pentagon brass must be a chef extraordinaire.

This year’s Enlisted Aide of the Year was Navy Senior Chief Wes Tavares, the senior enlisted aide to the 29th Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead.

The Enlisted Aide of the Year nominees included:

• Army Sergeant First Class Sherra Jackson.
• Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Bishop.
• Air Force Master Sergeant Emile Bradley.
• Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Scott Zabel.
• Navy Senior Chief Wes Tavares.