Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. -- Autumn is upon the Carolina coast-- football fans are tailgating, Marines and sailors are airing out their cold-weather gear and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit is getting a little “chili” on a Friday afternoon.
Marines, sailors and family readiness assistants and volunteers with the 22nd MEU donned their favorite football team jerseys and showed off their culinary skills during a unit chili cook-off aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 21, 2012.
Instead of their usual monthly potluck lunch, the 22nd MEU hosted a chili cook-off to promote competition among the sections. The event was also an opportunity for the MEU’s family readiness assistants and volunteers, who were conducting training, to spend some time with their families, as well as the Marines and sailors they support.
“I thought of having a chili cook-off as a kick-starter for the football season,” said Frank Smith, family readiness officer for the 22nd MEU. “The weather is starting to break a bit and I thought we should get the sections together and motivate them to compete.”
Each section was encouraged to provide at least one batch of chili for the competition. Seven family readiness assistants and volunteers judged each batch in six categories: aroma, consistency, appearance, taste, aftertaste and heat.
“Volunteers blind taste-tested each entry and graded each category on a scale of one to 10,” said Smith, a Winston-Salem, N.C., native. “It’s about motivating the Marines to have a fun competition among their peers. If they’re having fun, the Marines are more apt to participate in these events.”
Activities that bring the command’s Marines and sailors together with the family readiness assistants and volunteers enhance family readiness training and increase participation in the program.
Participants seemed to enjoy the cook-off and the opportunity to spend some time at work wearing their team colors instead of digital camouflage. When the judging was finished, Gunnery Sgt. Trever Nelson, logistics chief for the 22nd MEU, stole the judges’ hearts and palates with his “T-K” chili.
“It’s all about the palate,” said Nelson, a Winona, Minn., native. “My wife did about 95 percent of the cooking, but I’m going to talk a lot of trash.”