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Cooks from the Valley Bring Taste of Home to Pacific Sailors

06 November 2014

From Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Bryan Mai

More than 40 “Cooks from the Valley” volunteers grilled and served steaks for the 5,000-plus Sailors aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) at sea in the Pacific, Nov. 6.

PACIFIC OCEAN - The aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) hosted 41 members of "Cooks from the Valley" for a three-day embarkation, Nov. 5-7, and barbecue, Nov. 6.

The ship's Supply department, along with the cooks, transformed the ship's hangar bay into a home-style barbeque as they grilled and served steaks for more than 5,000 Sailors.

"It's fantastic that they did this," said Cmdr. Brian Anderson, George Washington's supply officer. "It helps our Sailors know that they are not forgotten at home because there are people who genuinely care enough to come all the way out here to do this for them."

Cooks from the Valley is a diverse group of businessmen and women, doctors, farmers, contractors, developers and various members of the judiciary from Bakersfield, California who, since 2001, have delivered approximately 53 tons of Harris Ranch, 12-ounce New York steaks to more than 140,000 Sailors and Marines around the world.

This particular barbeque involved more than 7,000 steaks and 700 pounds of seasoning. The cooks seasoned and oiled all of the steaks in the ship's aft galley and the steaks marinated overnight.

During their visit, the Cooks watched day and night flight operations, took ship tours and got the chance to learn about the Sailors who make George Washington a fully-operational aircraft carrier.

"I really love interacting with Sailors," said Tom Anton, a lawyer and founder of Cooks from the Valley. "I was first able to do this when I brought steaks to my friend's ship and started this tradition. My friend eventually became an admiral but we never cooked on a carrier until after 9/11. My friend warned me that there were a lot of people on a carrier."

Anton has grilled and served steaks to service members for more than 20 years, starting aboard USS Chandler (DDG 996) in 1983. Cooks from the Valley has grilled more than 50 barbeques around the world in various locations and bases such as Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Washington Navy Yard and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

"All of the cooks here have volunteered their time and energy here," said James French, from San Diego, a supply senior analyst for Afloat Services at Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific. "We wanted to show, as patriots, our gratitude for the service members serving our country."

For some of the volunteers, the experience represented their first time with the rest of the cooks and their first time aboard a carrier.

"I've always wanted to do this," said Walt Newport, from Bakersfield, California, a Cooks from the Valley volunteer. "I was really excited that I was finally able to do this because I love the U.S. military so much."

George Washington was not the only ship the cooks visited. Guided-missile destroyers USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) and USS Halsey (DDG 97), and guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) also had the opportunity to enjoy steak dinners.

"I really appreciate them doing this because I know they aren't asking for anything in return from us," said Personnel Specialist Seaman Christopher Robinson. "It's like getting a little piece of home."

George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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