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Contractor Peter Sanganza, a cook from Zimbabwe, prepares hamburger Yakisoba during a visit from evaluators to the Hardstand Cafe on RAF Mildenhall on Feb. 6. Culinary specialists at the cafe are vying for top Air Force food service operation honors.
Contractor Peter Sanganza, a cook from Zimbabwe, prepares hamburger Yakisoba during a visit from evaluators to the Hardstand Cafe on RAF Mildenhall on Feb. 6. Culinary specialists at the cafe are vying for top Air Force food service operation honors. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Contractor Peter Sanganza, a cook from Zimbabwe, prepares hamburger Yakisoba during a visit from evaluators to the Hardstand Cafe on RAF Mildenhall on Feb. 6. Culinary specialists at the cafe are vying for top Air Force food service operation honors.
Contractor Peter Sanganza, a cook from Zimbabwe, prepares hamburger Yakisoba during a visit from evaluators to the Hardstand Cafe on RAF Mildenhall on Feb. 6. Culinary specialists at the cafe are vying for top Air Force food service operation honors. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Senior Airman Billy Janca, a shift leader, makes up a batch of cheese biscuits during a visit from evaluators to the Hardstand Cafe on Feb. 6. The culinary specialists at the cafe are vying for top Air Force food service operation honors. (ukw# 48p cs)
Senior Airman Billy Janca, a shift leader, makes up a batch of cheese biscuits during a visit from evaluators to the Hardstand Cafe on Feb. 6. The culinary specialists at the cafe are vying for top Air Force food service operation honors. (ukw# 48p cs) (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

RAF MILDENHALL — Culinary specialists at the Gateway Dining Hall and Hardstand Cafe last week were visited by a group that might be more discerning than the eateries’ regular hungry patrons.

Evaluators judged the facilities as part of the John L. Hennessy Award Program, which recognizes top food service operations in the Air Force.

For two days, a team of four evaluators critiqued the production, serving line techniques, sanitation and overall management of the two dining facilities.

The base already won this year’s multiple-facility category for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and is vying against other major command winners for the Air Force-level award, which will be announced in late March. The award will be presented in May during the National Restaurant Association’s Food Show in Chicago.

Servers and cooks wore pressed white uniforms with white aprons and chef’s hats, or blue uniforms, while the evaluators surveyed the facilities.

Airman 1st Class Christopher Mahon, a services apprentice at the Hardstand Cafe, said it was an honor to have the team to assess his daily routine.

“To be up for something that tells us we’re the best of the best is a big deal. It kind of makes you proud to do your job,” said Mahon, a 20-year-old from Milford, Pa.

Mildenhall was the second stop for the evaluation crew, headed by George Miller, chief of the Air Force Food Service Branch, a component of Headquarters Air Force Services Agency.

“Mildenhall has a good operation. They’re solid, dedicated and very responsive. They’re the best in Europe, so they’re already winners,” Miller said while evaluating the Hardstand Cafe on Feb. 6.

Each base can earn up to 1,000 points in the evaluation process. The one with the highest score gets the trophy, Miller said.

“The key areas we worry about are production and serving of the guests. Those are the two areas that carry the most weight,” he said.

Mahon also said that it means a lot to him whenever food services get recognition.

“Services are kind of looked at as the lower of the low. Nine times out of 10 we’re kind of the ones forgotten on base. We’re the ones who work holidays and don’t get the down days.

“So when something like this comes along, it makes us feel appreciated,” Mahon said.

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