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Navy Mess Night (long)

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Often times I am asked by owners Zane and Mary Lou Lawson to come up with event ideas that fill in our schedules during the slowest times. Unlike caterers in large metro areas, a caterer in a rural area with populations under 250K generally have some down time from January through March. While we use it to test new items on the public at the United Way Taste of the Grand Valley fund raiser, March of Dimes Fund Raiser, Hospice Fund Raiser, or one of the other charities' events we support, we still starve to fill in the cash coffers and constantly come up with ideas that may allow the perfect "down time" that being two events per week that are large enough to make a profit. Such is the
ever searching life of the rural caterer!

This year we drew on my military past to offer the formal Military Mess Night for the various branches of the armed forces. And so I would find myself 23 years after separating from the United States Marine Corps, once again involved in the traditions and methods of the formal military Mess Night. We would put on the Navy Mess Night for the Chiefs Association of the western states. I went over the protocol books, downloaded the Navy Mess Night Manual. And pushed forward to help Zane and Mary Lou, along with the rest of the Catering Companies employees put on a show for the Chiefs.
Steeped in tradition this was one of the more fun nights I have had catering! And they allowed me to take pictures of the event.
This is a Navy event, so there is a bar to offer the beverages of choice.

Protocol demand that there start with a social hour that allows guests to meet and greet each other prior to the start of the formal ceremony.

A quick inspection by the Master Chief of the room we have prepared for the Mess Night for approval in advance of the start of the formal ceremonies.

These are military people, so food is a must with the drink. So we layout the shrimp cocktail that they may eat a little before the main service of food. The call goes out from the Chef that the appetizers are at the ready! The Master Chief orders the appetizers to the table in the bar for his men and women! The order is executed.

When serving the shrimp cocktail I remind the Sailors what they are fighting for, the women sailors have already gazed upon Zane and I as fine specimens of county MEN. ;-) and so I need to remind the male sailors why the ply the seas,

Sexist, maybe, powerful in its message definitely!

The Chef locates the Master Chief and announces that dinner service is imminent. The Master Chief has the Sergeant at Arms call all the Chiefs to the Chiefs Mess! And the ceremony starts with the welcoming toast! The colors and brought in and placed.

The pomp continues as the Mess Night gets into full swing.

Mr. Vice President of the mess begins the work of directing the Mess Night in Earnest. A call is made for the parading of the beast. And so the Chef sends out the plate to be tasted, savored and approved as fit to eat. Being a former Marine the chef sends out a special plate!

The plate is shown to all the attendees for input as to the consumptability of the prepared plate!

No one approves of the initial food the Former Marine Chef has prepared. And so the Master Chief rejects the plate and orders the chef to prepare a meal fit for his charges!
The Chef prepares a new beast and the ceremony moves on to the "Parading of the Beast!"

The beast is marched around the venue and finally stops in front of Mr President of the Mess (Master Chief) for presentation. He orders the beast taken to Mr. Vice of the Mess for a look.

Mr. Vice is order to carve a taste of Mr. President's beast and bring it forward.
Military persons celebrate in the quirks that make us individuals. And so if you have attribute that is a little different. It will be noticed and it will be used by senior personnel at some point. Today we have "THE NOSE" in attendance and so the order is given to present the plate to "THE NOSE" for olfactory inspection of what the Chef has prepared.

Upon returning from "THE NOSE" Mr. President orders Mr. Vice to taste his meat to ensure proper seasoning of the beast was completed to feed his charges.

The beast is tasted and pronounced fit for consumption. So the plating line is set up and service begins with the salad.

Then a break while the line is reset for the beef to be carved, plated and served.

Prior to service of the main course but after the salad, the part that gets me was done. Regardless of branch of service there are those that offered and paid the ultimate price to their country. So that each and every USA citizen (and many citizens of other countries that depend on their alliance with the USA for strong borders) may go to sleep at night knowing they will wake to the same government in the morning, with the same freedoms and rights they had the evening before. Knowing that their children will have opportunity to carve out a better life pursuing what interests them. Freedom is not free folks! And this next set of pictures is dedicated at every single formal dinner to those who know that best, those soldiers killed in action, missing in action or POWs.

The ceremony comes with an explanation of the table and what is represents.

“The small table at the front of the mess has been placed there to honor our POW/MIAs. The items on the table represent various aspects of the courageous men
and women still missing.”
“The table is smaller than the others symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against their oppressors.”
“The white tablecloth represents the purity of their response to our country’s call to arms,”
“The empty chair depicts an unknown face, representing no specific Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Coast Guardsman, or Airman, but all who are not here with us.”
“The table is round to show that our concern for them is never ending.”
“The Bible represents faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God.”
“The black napkin stands for the emptiness these warriors have left in the hearts of their families and friends.”
“The single red rose reminds us of their families and loved ones; and the red ribbon represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call.”
“The yellow candle and its yellow ribbon symbolize the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion with those yet unaccounted for.”
“The slices of lemon on the bread plate reminds us of their bitter fate.”
“The salt upon the bread plate represents the tears of their families.”
"The wine glass turned upside down reminds us that our distinguished comrades cannot be with us to drink a toast or join in the festivities this evening."

'Til we talk again.... remember you wake in the morning and take for granted what others in countries around the world wish they had, you know tomorrow will have laws and order to society, you wake able to pursue you dreams, you wake with opportunity, you wake without the thought of bombs going off, without the thought of your government killing you and your family because you are of the wrong faith, or ethnic background. You will sleep this evening without a thought of a foreign invader forcing you and your family to prison in the morning! You will sleep tonight knowing your children we have opportunity at education, to pursue their dreams, to challenge themselves the next morning. You take it for given that this will exist when you lay to sleep. You know that no matter which way the politics sway, no one is going to take up arms if the election does not go the way of their wishes.

And you can do all of that because of the present men and women, and the many before them called veterans, that are willing to shed their blood to ensure generations to come will be afforded the same opportunity. Honor them by living the free life they offered theirs for you to pursue!

Chef Bob Ballantyne
The Cowboy and The Rose Catering
Grand Junction, Colorado, USA
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
post #2 of 4
Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Although my family was Army......:look: I was going to the Navy at Great Lakes NAS until I busted up my knees in highschool. Although several years later I find myself in Beaufort SC for a few years and gained a profound respect for the USMC from working with and being around many representative of MCAS Beaufort and Parris Island.
post #3 of 4
Chef Bob-

What a magnificent party!! I've never seen so many hashmarks at one time.

Many thanks for sharing.

Mike (sometime tin can sailor) :bounce:
travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #4 of 4
What a wonderful post- thank you for sharing. It made an impact on me.
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