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An airman picks up lunch recently in the Samurai Cafe at Yokota Air Base, Japan. The dining facility was named best in Pacific Air Forces last fall and is now in the running for the 2006 Hennessy Award, the service’s top honor.
An airman picks up lunch recently in the Samurai Cafe at Yokota Air Base, Japan. The dining facility was named best in Pacific Air Forces last fall and is now in the running for the 2006 Hennessy Award, the service’s top honor. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The Samurai Cafe was the best dining facility in the Pacific last year. Now, it’s taking aim at the Air Force’s top honor.

A four-member inspection team arrives this week to review the base chow hall in its bid for the Hennessy Award. That process is slated to begin Monday.

“We are very excited to represent (Pacific Air Forces) in the competition for the 2006 Hennessy trophy, and using this as a stepping stone in improving service for the wing personnel,” said Master Sgt. Robert Boettner, the Samurai Cafe Dining Facility manager.

Yokota is battling in the single-facility category against six other installations representing each of the Air Force’s major commands: F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; Randolph Air Force Base, Texas; Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Langley Air Force Base, Va.; Moron Air Base, Spain; and Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., last year’s winner.

Bases with more than one dining facility fall into a separate classification. Finalists are being scrutinized through March 6, and winners will be announced at a major food show in Chicago this May.

In November, Yokota’s Samurai Cafe picked up the 2006 Food Service Excellence Award, edging out Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, as the best in PACAF. Other entries came from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; Kunsan Air Base, South Korea; and Misawa Air Base, Japan.

It marked the first triumph in 11 years for Yokota’s dining facility, according to Boettner.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised, more along the lines of proud,” he said. “It was very exciting to be able to inform the Samurai Cafe team that we are the best in PACAF.”

Judges evaluated all aspects of food service and praised the chow hall’s cleanliness, marketing support and staff knowledge. Along with a trophy, the Samurai Cafe received $25,000 from PACAF for facility upgrades and the purchase of equipment.

“What this award means to the staff is that all the hard work and attention to detail put in daily to take care of the men and women of the 374th Airlift Wing has been recognized,” Boettner said. “And it couldn’t have happened without the support of the entire wing.”

Airman 1st Class Kimkeisha Ivey of the 374th Maintenance Operations Squadron said she enjoys the wide selection offered by the base dining facility.

“They’ve got a whole lot of options and variety,” she said. “You can go through the main line or get a sandwich made. There’s stir-fry, too. But I like breakfast mostly.”

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