USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea -- Peeking through the thin slits in the top of the crust, the apple filling permeated the air with the comfort of home as it came out of the oven. The chef, a Marine aircraft mechanic, looked down on his creation, mentally miles away from the greasy helicopter engine he was accustomed to.
Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit work together with Navy cooks to make life on ship less of a daily grind by baking delicious desserts to compliment each meal.
The Marines and Sailors in the bakeshop spend day and night creating the ship’s desserts. Home-style treats like sugar cookies, apple pie, and chocolate cake await the service members during each meal. On average, the blue and green team bakes more than 1,500 servings of desserts for the junior enlisted mess hall, the senior enlisted chief’s mess, and the officers’ galley.
With the hard work of the bakery, each mess can serve three different desserts with each meal.
“We bake a lot of desserts here in the bake shop that get dispersed throughout the four meals per day,” said Lance Cpl. Teena M. Sifuentez, a food service specialist with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, and a native of Santa Barbara, Calif. “We always get comments and smiles from the Marines when we walk to the mess deck with our desserts. I think it really makes some of their days.”
The “green” side of the bake shop consists of a few Marine food service specialists and some Marines whose jobs have nothing to do with food preparation. Marines from the fields of aviation to intelligence get a chance to step out of the environment they are used to and lend a hand in the high demand world of desserts.
“There is a lot of hard work that has to be done in the bakeshop and galley. We are constantly moving and working as fast as we can to meet the deadlines,” said Cpl. Wesley A. Ross, an AV-8B Harrier air frame mechanic with VMM-265 (Rein), 31st MEU, and a native of San Diego, Calif. “Working here on the mess decks, we experience what it takes to keep this place going, if we don’t get the food prepared on time, nobody eats.”
The Marines assigned to the bake shop learn valuable lessons through their duties that help them in the kitchen, and also learn how to work efficiently with their Navy brothers and sisters.
“I have learned a lot from the Navy side since I started working on ship,” said Cpl. Bernardo Resto, the bakeshop non-commissioned officer-in-charge with VMM 265 (Rein), 31st MEU, and a native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. “I didn’t think they would be so easy to work with. They are polite, fun, and know when to buckle down and get the job done.”
The integrated team of professionals has been serving up sweets for more than a week of the 31st MEU’s scheduled summer patrol and will continue to for the remaining months of the deployment. The ship’s bake shop is one of many ways the Marines and Sailors help each other feel at home, when at sea.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.