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Marine chef brings taste of Caribbean to Base Restaurant

By Cpl. Isaac Pacheco | | June 24, 2004

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Culinary expertise is not commonly thought of as a necessary Marine Corps attribute, but for one Albany Devil Dog, "bringing home the bacon" is a way of life.

Staff Sgt. Andrew A. Atkinson, enlisted aid chef, Marine Corps Logistics Command, serves as the personal chef and assistant to Major Gen. Harold Mashburn, LogCom's commanding general.  Recently, Atkinson put his unique skills to work at the Base Restaurant by cooking a special Caribbean-themed Father's Day lunch.

"I want to give people an opportunity to experience some of the different types of food found in the Caribbean," Atkinson said.  "Everybody is used to eating barbeque chicken or hamburgers for lunch.  I'm trying to throw something new in the mix."

Had lunch-goers not known about the special Father's Day menu, they might have thought they were walking into a spice market.  The scent of curry, allspice, cinnamon and cloves danced through the air as patrons jostled for a spot in the buffet line.  When they finally made it to the front of the line, hungry servicemembers and base employees were greeted by a cornucopia of Caribbean delights, including jerk pork chops, curry chicken, coconut rice and peas, cabbage and salt cod and ripe fried plantains.

"I hope when the Marines try the meal, they'll enjoy it," Atkinson said/

And like it, they did.  Besides emptying the buffet several times, fans of the spiced-up fare food had some comments for the chef.

"The food was stupendous," said Karen Hanovich, marketing director, Marine Corps Community Services.  "Surprisingly, there wasn't anything I didn't like.  I think it's great when the restaurant has different menus like this because it gives us some variety."

Marines who were used to the normal Base Restaurant lunches were equally impressed with the exotic selection.

It was "off the chain!"  I thought all the food was really good, especially the jerk pork chops and the rice, said Cpl. Stephen Ramos, maintenance clerk, S-4.  We need more ethnically diverse meals like this one.  Anything from another culture is better than regular old beef and chicken."

Atkinson, a St. Catherine, Jamaica native, immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1988.  He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1992.

"My brother joined before me, and I kind of followed in his footsteps," Atkinson said.  "I came (into the Corps) with an open contract, and the Marine Corps placed me in the food service field."

"It makes me feel really proud to see people enjoying the food I make," Atkinson confessed.  "It makes all the hard work in the kitchen worthwhile."

In 1999, Atkinson moved from the messhall tables to the generals' tables when he began working as an enlisted aid in Hawaii.  Atkinson has served as the personal chef, and arranged official parties and receptions, for some of the Marine Corps' most recognized leaders including former commandant Gen. James Jones.

Atkinson has also served as the personal chef for Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard Myers.
Atkinson was recently selected for promotion to gunnery sergeant, and said he intends to continue pursuing his passion for cooking while serving in the Marines.

"I'm going to school next year to become a certified chef," Atkinson said.  "I love cooking and want to continue with both careers."

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