If you’re hungry for good chow, go west for the Navy’s best.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer last week announced the Capt. Edward F. Ney awards, which for 61 years have honored the service’s best afloat and ashore dining facilities for excellence in food preparation and service. All but two of the winners this year feed sailors assigned to Pacific Ocean commands.

The lone holdouts were the Small General Mess winner: Ristorante Bella Etna Dining Facility at Sicily’s Naval Air Facility Sigonella, and the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, which won for best flattop food.

But when it comes to the Lincoln, it’s a movable feast. The carrier’s crew is prepping to deploy on a cruise slated to sail across the Atlantic and Pacific, ending up at its new homeport at Naval Air Station North Island in California later this year.

“Culinary specialists and food service attendants solidify the ship when it comes to teamwork and morale,” said Master Chief Culinary Specialist Carlos Billingslea, a 28-year veteran serving on board the Lincoln, in a prepared statement released Monday.

“Sailors wake up in the morning and have a hot breakfast then go to sleep with a full stomach. Morale begins and ends the day with supply.”

Sigonella won its category the second year in a row. The champion of the Large General Mess category was the Trident Inn Galley in Bangor, Washington, but the award for the best sub grub went to the Hawaii-based fast attack submarine Santa Fe.

The Small-Medium Afloat winner was the amphibious transport dock ship John P. Murtha and the amphibious assault ship Boxer took the Large Afloat category, beating out the America, which had taken the blue ribbon in 2017 and 2018.

The Murtha, Boxer and America are all homeported at Naval Base San Diego.

One of the highlights of the Abraham Lincoln’s culinary calendar was Thanksgiving, when the warship hosted nearly 200 officers and sailors from the British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth.

“Everyone talks about how good the food on our ship is, but it comes at a huge cost for those sailors, they work really hard. So it’s awesome to see they’re able to strike a balance between the hard work and sustaining excellence to make Abraham Lincoln a trendsetter for the fleet,” said Capt. Putnam H. Browne.

The annual awards are named for Capt. Edward F. Ney, the officer-in-charge of buying food for the Navy’s rapidly expanding fleet during World War II.

New received the Legion of Merit medal for how he “ably handled the multiple problems incident to determining the requirements and supervising the procurement of food for the United States Navy," efforts that contributed "directly to the high standard of Navy rationing which resulted in increased morale, comfort and well-being of officers and men,” according to his award citation.

Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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