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Navy Culinary Specialist (CS): Career Details

Navy Culinary Specialists (CS) are Navy enlisted men and women who feed over 300,000 of their fellow sailors onboard US Naval Vessels and at Navy shore installations worldwide.

It is the Navy Culinary Specialist who “feeds the fleet.”

Culinary Specialists manage and operate US Navy messes and galleys, and living quarters established to accommodate and subsist naval personnel.

Navy Culinary Specialists not only prepare menus and meal plans, but they also prepare and serve those meals.

In addition, Culinary Specialists maintain food service spaces and associated equipment in a clean, safe, and sanitary condition.  This includes storerooms and refrigerated spaces.

navy cs
CS2 McCants prepares beef fajitas for his shipmates aboard USS Comstock (LSD 45). – (Source: Wikimedia)

The responsibility of maintenance, management, and oversight of quarters afloat and ashore also fall to Navy Culinary Specialists.

The Navy Culinary Specialist (CS) rating originated from two rates, Steward (SD) and Commisaryman (CS), in the early days of the Navy.  In 1975, the Navy merged the Steward (SD) and Commisaryman (CS) rates and changed the name to Mess Management Specialist (MS) until 15 January 2004, when Mess Management Specialist (MS) became Culinary Specialists (CS).

Approximately 7,500 Culinary Experts serve in the United States Navy worldwide.

Related ArticleNavy Jobs List: A List Of All 71 Ratings In The Navy

Navy Culinary Specialist also serve onboard submarines.  However, their rate is Culinary Specialist (Submarines), or the Navy rate of CSS.  They must go through the same training as do Culinary Specialists, but must also attend four weeks of Basic Enlisted Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut upon Navy Culinary Specialist “A” school.

The ASVAB score required to be a Culinary Specialist (Submarine) is also different.  The CSS must have an ASVAB score of AR (Arithmetic Reasoning) + MK (Math Knowledge) + EI (Electronics Information) + (General Science) = 200  or VE (Verbal Expression) + AR (Arithmetic Reasoning) + MK (Math Knowledge) + (Mechanical Comprehension) MC = 200.

The Sea/Shore rotation of a Culinary Specialist (Submarine) also differs from that of Culinary Specialists.

Navy Culinary Specialists also operate messes for the President of the United States in the White House and at Camp David.

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Requirements and Qualifications

To become a Navy Culinary Specialist, there are specific requirements and qualifications that you must meet:

  • Must be a member of the US Navy.
  • Must be between the ages of 18 and 39.
  • No record of adversely adjudicated drug abuse offenses.
  • Must have an Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score of VE (Verbal Expression) + AR (Arithmetic Reasoning) = 82

Related Article: Navy Height And Weight Standards

Training and Career Path

Prior to becoming a Navy Culinary Specialist, you must first become a US Navy Sailor. Recruits accomplish this via successful completion of Navy Recruit Training, commonly referred to as Boot Camp.

All sailors attend Boot Camp at the Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes (RTC Great Lakes).

Located at Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago, Illinois in Lake County. RTC Great Lakes is commonly referred to as “The Quarterdeck of the Navy.”

Navy recruits and their division commander marching in inclement weather. – (Source: CPO Schaeffer/Released)

Boot Camp is eight weeks long. During these eight weeks, the Navy will teach you the basic skills required of all US Sailors.

 Related ArticleIs Navy Boot Camp Hard?

Navy Culinary Specialist Class “A” School

After Boot Camp, Navy Culinary Specialists attend Navy Culinary Specialist (CS) Class “A” School at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia.

Navy Culinary Specialist  Class “A” school is approximately nine weeks long.

During Navy Culinary Specialist “A” School training, sailors learn food preparation, nutrition, and dining service through both group instruction and practical application.

navy culinary specialist
CSSN Cook prepares refried beans for lunch on board USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). – (Source: Wikimedia)

Besides Culinary Specialist Class “A” technical school, the Navy expects and encourages Navy Culinary Specialists to complete self-paced Non-Resident Training Courses (NRTC) and relative Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS) when they get to the fleet to enhance their knowledge and increase their promotion opportunities.

Navy Culinary Specialists should also pursue warfare qualifications depending on their duty station, such as:

  • ESWS (Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist)
  • EAWS (Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist)
  • Submarine Warfare (SSW) – Enlisted

In addition, The Navy provides online training to qualified Navy Culinary Specialists through their Credentialing Opportunities On-Line website, referred to as Navy COOL.

Advanced culinary-related training is available to Culinary Specialists as their Navy career progresses.

How Much Are Navy Culinary Specialists Paid?

Like all other enlisted personnel (in all branches), the Navy bases a sailor’s pay on their rank and length of service.

InsigniaPay GradeRankAbbreviation2019 Pay (monthly)
N/AE-1Seaman RecruitSR$1,681
E-2Seaman ApprenticeSA$1,884
e-3 navy seamanE-3SeamanSN$1,981
petty officer third classE-4Petty Officer Third ClassPO3$2,195
petty officer second classE-5Petty Officer Second ClassPO2$2,394
petty officer first classE-6Petty Officer First ClassPO1$2,613
chief petty officerE-7Chief Petty OfficerCPO$3,021
senior chief petty officerE-8Senior Chief Petty OfficerSCPO$4,345
master chief petty officerE-9Master Chief Petty OfficerMCPO$5,308
command master chief petty officerE-9Command Master Chief Petty OfficerCMDCM$5,429
master chief petty officer of the navyE-9Master Chief Petty Officer Of The NavyMCPON$5,580

Navy Culinary Specialists may be entitled to other forms of compensation including base allowance for housing (BAH), base allowance for subsistence (BAS), and billet pay (sea pay, flight pay, submarine pay, etc.) if eligible.

Related Article: Navy Ranks And Pay For 2019

What’s Life Like as a Navy Culinary Specialist?

Navy Culinary Specialists work in kitchens, dining areas, food service storerooms, and living and bachelor quarters aboard ships, construction battalions, shore bases, and designated aircraft.

The work is primarily physical, and Culinary Specialists must work as part of a team.  The work is often in close quarters and often under adverse conditions.

Culinary Specialists work in the “heart of the ship.”

A Navy Culinary Specialist responsibilities vary and can include:

  • Menu management.
  • Food preparation.
  • Mess, kitchen, and dining facilities operations.
  • Operation and management of shipboard living quarters.
  • Operation of shore-based hotel-type quarters.
  • Serve as personal food service specialists in Commanding Officer’s and Admiral’s messes.
  • Financial record management.
  • Maintain subsistence inventories using storeroom management procedures.
  • Provide hospitality and catering services during official command receptions and ceremonies.
  • Serve as a flight attendant aircrewman on designated aircraft.

Navy Culinary Specialists do in fact, feed the fleet, worldwide.  How well a Culinary Specialist does his or her job has a direct effect on a ship’s morale and the quality of life of her crew. 

Life as a Navy Culinary Specialist requires a hard-working sailor not afraid to sweat or work odd (and long) hours.

“We’re up by 3 a.m. to start preparing breakfast to be served by 6 a.m.  Some of our CS’s have to report on lower-base to prepare meals and have to walk to work every morning,” says CS2 Roel Cabellero, a Culinary Specialist assigned to the Trident Inn Galley at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Washington.

CS2 Cabellero also stresses how important time-management is for Navy Culinary Specialists, “Time management is very important in the galley.  You have a kettle full of chicken that takes about 45 minutes to cook, but the potatoes have to be seasoned too. So you look at your staff and see that one-third of your kitchen was sent to the lower-base galley and you realize you don’t have enough hands.”

“Even with all the different tasks I have set before me, the meal must come out right and on time.”

Typical Rotation

Sailors in specific jobs (or rates as the Navy refers to them) must adhere to a Sea/Shore rotation based on their rate.

During a twenty-year career in the Navy, Culinary Specialists will spend about 60 percent of their career at sea, and 40 percent assigned to shore stations.

Specifically, the Sea/Shore rotation for Navy Culinary Specialists is:

TourSea TourShore Tour
First Tour55 Months (4.5 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Second Tour54 Months (4.5 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Third Tour48 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Fourth Tour36 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Fifth Tour36 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Sixth Tour36 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Seventh Tour36 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)

Culinary Specialists who have completed four sea tours will serve 36 months at sea followed by 36 months on shore until retirement. 

Note that some overseas assignments count as sea tours.

Shipboard life and life on shore duty are drastically different.  The Navy expects Culinary Specialists, as they do all of their sailors, to adapt and meet the challenges presented by these different environments.

Here are a few reviews we happened across on indeed.com from Navy Culinary Specialists:

Navy Culinary Specialists enjoy the same benefits as do all Navy personnel, such as the opportunity to travel the world, unlimited opportunities for learning and advancement, and control over their career.

Civilian Career Opportunities

Civilian career opportunities for Navy Culinary Specialists abound.  These include chef, server, food prep worker, food service supervisor, food service manager, sous chef, line cook, prep cook, and restaurant manager, and a host of others.

This is especially true if the sailor took full advantage of the on-the-job (OJT), training opportunities, and educational opportunities offered and afforded them during their naval service.

The United States Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) also allows Culinary Specialists to complete their civilian apprenticeship requirements while on active duty.

These apprenticeships include:

  • Baker
  • Computer Operator
  • Cook (Any Industry)
  • Cook (Hotel and Restaurant)
  • Correction Officer (Government Services)
  • Counselor (Professional and Kindred)
  • Household Manager (Private Residential Management)
  • Housekeeper (Commercial, Residential, Industrial)
  • Manager, Food Service (Hotel and Restaurant; Personal Service)
  • Manager, Retail Service (Retail Trade)

If you are considering the US Navy, enjoy cooking and helping people, a career as a Navy Culinary Specialist might just be for you.

Who knows?  You might just wind up cooking at the White House!

References

Find A Navy Recruiter

Navy Culinary Specialists Reviews

Navy COOL Summary For CS

Travis R.

A St. Louis, Missouri native, Travis served eight years in the United States Navy. Duty stations include Air Test and Evaluation Squadron One (AIRTEVRON ONE), NAS Patuxent River, MD, the USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20), Commander Second Fleet (COMSECONDFLT), and US Transportation Command, (USTRANSCOM) Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

After the Navy, Travis worked in the Information Technology sector for twenty-five years.

Connect with Travis @MichaelTRose.
Travis R.

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