By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2014 - The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff joined the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore in recognizing the talents of military chefs and enlisted aides during a Salute to Military Chefs event here yesterday.
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. was joined by various Defense Department leaders, military spouses and USO officials, as eight military chefs and five enlisted aides were honored during the event.
Each of the military chefs, alongside Chef Robert Irvine of the Food Network's "Restaurant Impossible" series, showcased their skills preparing elaborate dishes for the audience. Each chef was introduced by a senior military leader before being honored.
Winnefeld said he was "thrilled" to be a part of the evening as he introduced Army Staff Sgt. Isaac Wilson and his own nominee, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Frida Karani.
Recognizing Extraordinary Talents
"It's really my very great privilege and honor to introduce our first chef tonight," he said. "There's really nothing better than recognizing [these] extraordinary talents."
Wilson, the admiral noted, works for the secretary of defense's mess. "So you know the level of dignitary that he has to serve each and every day," he added. Winnefeld said Wilson, a Logansport, Indiana, native, was led by his "competitive nature" to join the military as a way to expand his culinary talents.
"That's why we call these guys chefs instead of cooks," he said. "The military inculcates in these people 'Got to get better; got to be the best.' And so they become chefs not long after they get in the military."
Before becoming a military chef, the vice chairman said, Wilson deployed to Iraq as a truck driver from December 2007 to March 2009.
"His competitive nature goes way beyond the kitchen," Winnefeld said, pointing out that Wilson has earned the German proficiency badge.
The vice chairman's second introduction was for Karani who serves on his own staff.
"At the Pentagon, we're able to put our best foot forward welcoming our visiting dignitaries and counterparts from all over the world," Winnefeld said. "And I know that I have frequent occasions in my home to entertain some pretty serious dignitaries, and you always want to show them the very best that you can as far as the culinary piece of it."
That's possible, Winnefeld said, only because of the extraordinary culinary talent represented at the event.
Karani, was born in Mombasa, Kenya, Winnefeld said, adding that he and his wife, Mary, are "very privileged" to have her on the staff.
Winnefeld said Karani developed her talents in diverse places, serving as saucier in Dubai from 2004 until 2006 before moving on to that position in Orlando, Florida.
In addition to being employed by several four- and five-star hotels, the vice chairman noted, Karani is a certified chef de cuisine by the American Culinary Federation and a winner of several gold and silver medals.
She enlisted in the Navy as a culinary specialist in January 2010 and graduated at the top of her class at the Navy's advanced culinary school. She also received the accelerated advancement program award.
The vice chairman said as important as her culinary skills are, Karani is also known for her "infectious" personality, and is an "absolute delight" to have around.
Chefs and Aides Honored
Military chefs honored at the event, and the officials they serve, are:
-- Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Shemeka Anderson, chief of naval operations;
-- Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Justin Fedin, Marine Corps commandant;
-- Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Derek Johnson, Coast Guard commandant;
-- Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Frida Karani, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff;
-- Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael Leo, Air Force chief of staff;
-- Army Sgt. Sarah Proctor, Army chief of staff;
-- Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Settle, president of the United States; and
-- Army Staff Sgt. Isaac Wilson, secretary of defense.
Enlisted aides honored at the event are Army Master Sgt. Sophia Bulham, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alan Hess, Air Force Tech Sgt. Sarah Morgan, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Cesar Balmaceda and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Sammy Paone.