Who Eats Best? Another Quora Question

Bangor, Wash. (April 26, 2007) ó Culinary Specialist Senior Chief (SS) Michael Deascentiis of Puget Sound Navy food management team teaches various ways to garnish fruit and vegetables to the food service team at the Trident Inn galley during an assist training visit.  The purpose of the visit is to provide training, assistance and technical support to food service personnel in the Naval Base (NB) Kitsap region. U.S. Navy photo by MC2 (AW) Maebel Tinoko .
Navy Cooks At Work

So recently I answered another Quora question on navy life. This time it was the question 

“Do US Navy officers get better food than enlisted soldiers?”

This was a fun question to answer and gave me another chance to reminisce on my Navy life. 

My Answer

Bangor, Wash. (April 26, 2007) ó Culinary Specialist Senior Chief (SS) Michael Deascentiis of Puget Sound Navy food management team teaches various ways to garnish fruit and vegetables to the food service team at the Trident Inn galley during an assist training visit. The purpose of the visit is to provide training, assistance and technical support to food service personnel in the Naval Base (NB) Kitsap region. U.S. Navy photo by MC2 (AW) Maebel Tinoko .

Based upon my experience, generally no. At best, the officers eat the same but with a big difference.

In the Navy (and all military services) enlisted people receive a non-taxable daily allowance for their meals called “Basic Allowance for Sustenance” (BAS). I don’t know what the rate is now, but it is enough to pay for pretty decent food when served through a military messhall or ship’s galley (the BAS does not pay for salaries or building maintenance). Officers, however, do not receive BAS and have to pay for their meals out of their paycheck, even when they’re at sea. As per custom, a junior officer is assigned the unenviable task of collecting mess funds from their fellow officers.

On a ship, the officers draw their rations (meals) from the same stores as enlisted people, but have their own cooks (wardroom) preparing the food. Since the officers have to pay out of pocket, they typically try to minimize what they eat, and the Wardroom cooks typically have less funds to buy food from the general mess.

Mess funds are tightly managed.

On larger ships (Carriers) the Chiefs normally have a “closed mess” they manage independent of the general enlisted mess. On a ship that has a closed chiefs mess, the chiefs still receive BAS but also pay a monthly dues that partially goes towards purchasing food. They have their own storerooms where they can store their food, and they still have the option of buying from the general mess. On ships with closed chief messes, the chiefs eat damn good.

Because of the way the meals are funded, Officers are not allowed to just wander into the general mess (or chiefs mess) for a meal.

On the one ship I served with a closed chiefs mess (as a chief) we typically had steak and lobster twice per month, an open refrigerator stocked with ice cream and sandwich fixings so we could have a snack anytime we felt the urge. During one of our cruises we decided to invite the officers down to our mess for “Officer’s Night.” We threw a dinner of steak and lobster, all-you-could-eat fresh salad, baked potato and ice cream for desert. The officers were in heaven.

The officers reciprocated a few nights later with a “Right-Hand-Man” dinner where they invited all the chiefs to the officers mess. We had a tiny dish of wilted salad greens, some type of “chicken goulash,” and a small slice of stale cake for desert. The offers comments were “we need to invite you chiefs here for dinner more often. We hardly ever eat this good.”

We all were real polite and when the dinner was over, migrated back down to our Chiefs mess and had our cook grill up some burgers.

Do US Navy officers get better food than enlisted soldiers?

So far, this answer hasn’t received as many up-votes as my all-time most popular answer:

 “What is something about Submarines nobody Knows? “

But I’m happy to hit one out of the park even once. 

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