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Yi Sung Kwan, Cook Chief at the Navy Club Seoul, stirs up a new recipe as visiting Chef Trevor Hamilton, from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada looks on. Hamilton is part of the Adopt-a-Ship Program that normally has him visiting U.S. submarines, carriers and battleships. In the nine years Hamilton has been in the program this is the first time he has worked on shore and with the MWR Program.

Yi Sung Kwan, Cook Chief at the Navy Club Seoul, stirs up a new recipe as visiting Chef Trevor Hamilton, from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada looks on. Hamilton is part of the Adopt-a-Ship Program that normally has him visiting U.S. submarines, carriers and battleships. In the nine years Hamilton has been in the program this is the first time he has worked on shore and with the MWR Program. (Todd Macdonald / Courtesy of U.S. Navy)

Yi Sung Kwan, Cook Chief at the Navy Club Seoul, stirs up a new recipe as visiting Chef Trevor Hamilton, from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada looks on. Hamilton is part of the Adopt-a-Ship Program that normally has him visiting U.S. submarines, carriers and battleships. In the nine years Hamilton has been in the program this is the first time he has worked on shore and with the MWR Program.

Yi Sung Kwan, Cook Chief at the Navy Club Seoul, stirs up a new recipe as visiting Chef Trevor Hamilton, from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada looks on. Hamilton is part of the Adopt-a-Ship Program that normally has him visiting U.S. submarines, carriers and battleships. In the nine years Hamilton has been in the program this is the first time he has worked on shore and with the MWR Program. (Todd Macdonald / Courtesy of U.S. Navy)

Chef Trevor Hamilton gives cooking pointers as Paul Savarese, MWR Director of Navy Region Korea (in tie) and Navy Club cooks listen intently.

Chef Trevor Hamilton gives cooking pointers as Paul Savarese, MWR Director of Navy Region Korea (in tie) and Navy Club cooks listen intently. (Todd Macdonald / Courtesy of U.S. Navy)

SEOUL — A civilian chef who volunteers to help ship-based U.S. Navy cooks improve their fare spent about 20 days in South Korea doing something he’s never done before — work on shore.

Paul Savarese, director of the Navy’s regional Morale, Welfare and Recreation program in South Korea, said Canadian chef Trevor Hamilton was brought here to pass along some “tricks of the trade” to chefs at the MWR-run Turtle Cove club at Chinhae Naval Base and the popular Navy Club on the U.S. Army’s Yongsan Garrison in Seoul.

Savarese, who recently took over operations in South Korea, wanted to improve the overall service. He said he planned to introduce a new menu at the Navy Club on Yongsan with a staff of South Korean cooks preparing U.S. dishes of the sort featured at a Chili’s or a T.G.I. Friday’s.

Hamilton spent 10 days in Seoul with the Navy Club staff, five days with the sailor’s galley at Chinhae, and five more days with the Turtle Cove staff on the Navy base, Savarese said.

The Navy paid to transport, house and feed Hamilton, but he volunteered his services.

Savarese said the biggest initial challenge was translation between the chef and the Korean cooks. But they quickly figured out that language for knives and mixing bowls is universal and were able to communicate via hands-on lessons.

Navy officials hoped the professional chef could help give the cooks “a little bit more skill and confidence,” Savarese said.

But he said that Hamilton wanted the Korean cooks to incorporate their ideas into the new menu, allowing them to add their own flair and cultural input.

“If I allow them to be creative and give their input on what they know about the Korean cuisine and add some of those spices to the American cuisine, it gets them excited,” Hamilton said in a Navy news release. “When they are excited about what they are doing, it makes for a better product.”

Savarese said that it was a bit of a challenge at first — the menu at the Navy club hadn’t been changed in six years.

“It was a good menu,” he said, but it was time for change. Sales data allowed him to look at least-popular items, making it “easy to know what to delete.”

The club introduced the menu on Sept. 19.

The changes weren’t drastic, Savarese said, but the goal was to create something user-friendly.

Changes include the all-day omelet, new salads, news soups, and two side dishes with each entree, among other additions.

He said the customer reaction “was a dream, but it was a challenge.”

The kitchen staff wasn’t quite prepared for the rush on the new items, but learned to adjust quickly.

Now, as the club works its way through the new offerings, Savarese is glad Hamilton was able to work his staff.

They’re a “little more savvy in the kitchen,” he said.

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