Thanksgiving at Sea

MU Hospitality Management students adopt a Navy ship

USS Boxer. Courtesy US Navy.

Six students from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ Hospitality Management program will be spending their Thanksgiving holiday aboard the U.S.S. Boxer, a Navy amphibious assault ship, preparing the holiday meal for the ship’s crew.

The students are part of the Adopt a Ship program began in 1998 as a partnership between the Naval Supply Systems Command and the American Culinary Foundation. The purpose is to provide Navy culinary teams with continuing education by civilian chefs bringing the industry to the sailors to help them stay current with what is going on in the food service industry.

Great Opportunity for Learning

The learning is a two-way street, said Leslie Jett, an assistant teaching professor and executive chef for MU’s Hospitality Management program:  “The students are going to see things that they are not going to see in a classroom; they are going to experience things that they wouldn’t find anywhere else.”

Jett pointed out that the program is unique.  “We are one of only a couple of schools that get to participate,” he said. “It’s something they can add to their resume, but for them to be there on Thanksgiving, to understand what it is like to be on the ship, to be part of that community on a holiday instead of being with their families. It’s a great opportunity for them.”

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Enrico Roque carves designs into fruits and vegetables and makes garnishes for the galley aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is currently underway off the coast of Southern California. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Michael Schwartz.

The U.S.S. Boxer is this year’s Pacific Fleet finalist for the prestigious Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Food Service Awardfor outstanding food service, providing the Mizzou students an opportunity to see one of the best in the fleet. This is the sixth time the University of Missouri has participated in the Adopt a Ship program.

Ben Yoder, a senior in Hospitality Management from St. Louis is very excited about this opportunity.

“As soon as the opportunity came up I jumped on it,” Yoder said. “I thought it would be a great experience to broaden my education and a great opportunity to give back by volunteering. We’ll be cooking a full meal on Thanksgiving for the sailors. I won’t be with my family on Thanksgiving, but they understand and I’m doing something that is really giving back, which I think is what Thanksgiving is about.”

Senior Emma Faist, a student from Belleville, Ill., agreed with Yoder that this is a great opportunity to show appreciation for military.

“Being able to bring the Navy men and women a little piece of home is great,” Faist said. “It’s something we can do. They give so much to us and it’s really awesome to be able to give something back to them.”

Yoder and Faist are looking forward to being able teach the Navy some of what they have learned at Mizzou and learning from the culinary team as well.

“We’ll get to see how they do things on board and then share some of our programs,” Yoder said. “We are going to pool together the things that they’ve learned and the things that we’ve learned and basically just feed off of each other to share in the wealth of knowledge.”

Something Better Than a Chow Line

This is a great opportunity to showcase the University of Missouri’s Hospitality Management program. Jett said that Mizzou has built a good reputation and the crew is looking forward to he and the students coming on board to work with them and do some great things.

“One of the things we are particularly going to work on is eliminate the stainless steel appearance of the food line,” Jett said. “We’ll be doing some fruit and vegetable carvings and working with garnishes. The students have put together their list of things to work on with the team to add color, to add flair, to just dress up the line to make it look even more appetizing.”

Jett said that the students that have gone before have really stayed connected with the program because of the experience they had. Many have written to tell students how great the opportunity is.

“It’s a very unique opportunity for them to experience food service and things they can’t experience anywhere else,” Jett said. “It’s something they will never forget.”