Large Afloat Galley of the Year goes to…Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star

Story by Ensign Cyrus Unvala and photos by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener.

The Galley Staff designed and prepared a customized cake for the ship's reception at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

The Galley Staff designed and prepared a customized cake for the ship’s reception at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

It may require a stretch of the imagination to picture a formal reception, complete with distinguished guests, a world-class buffet spread, and a custom-designed cake taking place in Antarctica.

For the galley staff of Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, a 399-foot Polar-class icebreaker homeported in Seattle, this year’s winner for Coast Guard Large Afloat Dining Facility of the Year, such an event was very much a reality, and just one of many remarkable achievements.

When Polar Star embarks on a more than three month Operation Deep Freeze deployment to McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, members of the galley staff begin a seemingly endless cycle of meal preparation. For a crew of 160, deployment consists of over 103,000 meals, up to 10 weeks without a port call, and passage through some of the roughest seas on the planet.

Despite 70 days without a port call for resupply, expert planning gave the eight-member Food Service Division the ability to provide the crew with real eggs and a fresh salad bar for nearly the entire period. But they didn’t stop at packing and storing adequate fresh food. Operation Deep Freeze 2015 was full of creative energy in the division.

Featured meals included Mongolian barbecues, carving stations, weekend pizza parties, homemade desserts, and sit-down dinners. For the holiday season, the crew enjoyed a plated formal dinner hosted in the various dining facilities in the ship. Crewmembers signed up for dinner, attended a seated event, and received full dining service.

“Doing this job well takes a lot of personal pride, and a constant desire to improve,” said Chief Warrant Officer Cory Jones, supply officer aboard Polar Star.

Third Class Petty Officer Alfred Laicer serves an assortment of hors d'oeuvres during Polar Star's reception at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

Third Class Petty Officer Alfred Laicer serves an assortment of hors d’oeuvres during Polar Star’s reception at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

This pride and skill was perhaps best displayed when Polar Star’s crew hosted a formal reception at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Numerous distinguished visitors attended, including Vice Adm. Charles Michel, Coast Guard deputy commandant for operations, Master Chief Petty Officer Steven Cantrell, the master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard, and several members and guests of U.S. Antarctic Program.

While the extravagant displays are highly impressive, for the ship’s crew, it is the quality of routine meals that is most appreciated

“There’s nothing better than breaking up the day with a well prepared meal,” says Petty Officer 3rd Class Cassidy Stevens, a storekeeper aboard Polar Star.

Polar Star’s Food Service Division for Operation Deep Freeze 2015 consisted of Senior Chief Petty Officer Nick Johnson, Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Buchanan, Petty Officer 2nd Class Arianne Gunn and Petty Officer 2nd Class Tracy Graham, Petty Officer 3rd Class Nichol Stuchell, Petty Officer 3rd Class Katherine Spurgeon, Petty Officer 3rd Class Oscar Delgado, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfred Laicer.

“It is great to see the Food Service Division recognized for the hard work they put in every day,” added Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Madden, an operations specialist aboard Polar Star.

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