The roots of the Culinary Specialist (FS) rating can be traced back to the merger of the Comissaryman and Steward ratings in 1973 and the establishment of the Subsistence Specialist rating, arguably one of the most uninspiring rating names every devised. In 1996, the Coast Guard retitled the rating as Food Service Specialist (FS), which much more accurately describes the duties of the Coast Guard’s culinary personnel without the negative connotations of a word (subsistence) often associated with bare survival. The current rating designation of Culinary Specialist was introduced in January 2017 “to more accurately reflect the unique culinary skills and professional expertise held by members of the rating.”

The “A” School for the Culinary Specialist rating is held at Training Center Petaluma. The training is broken into three phases, with the first month spent introducing students to safety and sanitation principles and their implementation before introducing them to basic food preparation and cooking techniques. This is literally the “meat and potatoes” of the course, as it focuses on the types of food associated with traditional dinners—vegetables, starches, grains, pasta, meats, poultry, game, and seafood. Phase Two covers starters (soups and salads), sandwiches, and baked goods including bread, pies, cakes, pastries, and cookies; it is perhaps fitting that nutrition is covered during this same leg of the course.

In the final Phase, up-and-coming Food Service Specialists start in the kitchen with lessons on time management and supervising galley operations and move to the mess hall,  where they are taught the fundamentals of food presentation and buffet service and replenishment.

Graduates of the FS “A” School can pursue several career options both in the kitchen and overseeing it, from Sous Chef, Pastry Chef de Cuisine to Food Service Manager and Culinary Instructor. Special assignments include positions as chefs as both the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.

At the same time the Coast Guard announced the rating’s name change, it also unveiled plans to stand up a Culinary Support Activity at TRACEN Yorktown, based on what the Coast Guard calls a “deliberate staffing model designed to improve mentorship and training opportunities of CS personnel.”

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