Dover reserve wing earns prestigious food service award

  • Published
  • By Jeremy Larlee
  • 512th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 512th Memorial Affairs Squadron recently brought home the trophy for the 2023 Air Force Reserve Command John L. Hennessy Food Service Excellence Award.

The annual awards program, established in 1957 and managed by the Air Force Services Center, recognizes the top dining facility operations in two regions, as well as the best in AFRC, small site award and missile feeding operation. The 512th MAS team erected a bare bones kitchen and served a meal in front of three judges at Dover Air force Base, Feb. 27, 2023.

The squadron previously earned the award in 2017 and 2019; and Senior Master Sgt. Raenita Monroe, 512th MAS readiness training superintendent, was a member of both of those teams. Leading the 2023 team was going to be one of the last things she did before retiring in April after 30 years of military service.

“I was happy to get selected to compete,” she said. “It’s my last chance in my career to take part, and it was great to work with a team that will just keep getting better in the future.”

Monroe’s first order of business in building her team was adding Master Sgt. Ronald Mitchell, a key member of the winning 2017 team. They worked together to pick the rest of the team.

“We had to pick some people that had readiness experience and some people with food knowledge, said Mitchell. “It was bit rough at first, because some people had a limited amount of experience in this type of competition. After a few weeks of practice and hard work, we formed a strong team.”

The team continued to tweak recipes and cooking temperatures up to two days before the competition.  The hard work paid off as the team’s execution impressed a National Restaurant Association Education Foundation judge.

Mike Johnston, an experienced food service professional with 50 years of experience in the hospitality industry, said he was impressed by the team’s performance as he evaluated them.

“There was an exhibition of incredible dedication, focus, friendliness and teamwork that is uncommon in many places you normally go,” he said. “It’s hard to believe they engineered this mobile kitchen. I can’t compliment them enough, and it was truly an honor and privilege to be able to work with them.”

Monroe said the competition served as perfect capstone to her career.

“I thought it was awesome how we meshed into one during this event,” she said. “It is a great feeling to be able to retire after accomplishing this. I was very proud that we were able to get the meal out and the whole thing was just an awesome experience.”

Monroe retired before the official trophy presentation July 7, but she leaves behind a legacy of excellence and a nearly 3-foot tall trophy, which is showcased in the unit until next year’s winner is announced.