NAVCENT Sailors Certified in ‘Cuisine Diplomacy’

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christina Brewer, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs | June 22, 2017

June 16, 2017 -- MANAMA, Bahrain – Two culinary specialists assigned to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), passed the American Culinary Federation's (ACF) certification exams for sous chef and chef de cuisine, June 17.

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Michael Colburn, sous chef, and Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Matthew Ndambuki, chef de cuisine, achieved their ACF certifications through written exams and practical tests.

“I just want to show continued education in my job field,” said Colburn, a native of Naples, Florida. “I want to be the best that I can at what I do.”

Colburn prepared a menu of toasted almond salad with strawberries and orange with strawberry mint vinaigrette, steak with baby asparagus, matignon and rice pilaf for his sous chef certification.

“Cooking is part of who I am,” said Ndambuki, a native of Detroit. “I figured if I could serve my country, why not combine the two things that I actually love and help others?”

For Ndambuki’ s chef de cuisine certification, the menu consisted of tandoori spiced dover sole with prawn cilantro sauce and sweet potato pommes frites, curry supreme chicken breast and cilantro mousseline with coconut basmati rice and spinach Sukuma.

Each culinary specialist testing for an ACF certification has to create a menu showing a variety of cooking techniques depending on which level of certification they are attempting to earn. Each culinary specialist must then prepare all aspects of their menu to the highest standard, all while making sure they keep all cooking elements sanitary and produce well-seasoned and properly cooked food within the set time. Times vary based on certification level.

Three ACF executive chefs, Michael Harants, Ed Glebus and Vaughn Vargus, traveled from San Diego to Bahrain as part of an overseas certification tour to administer the credentialing process for Colburn and Ndambuki.

“It is important to them that they prepare good food for their charges and for them to take the time out to advance their skill sets by working towards a commercial level of certification,” said Harants, lead practical examiner. “That really says a lot about the [culinary specialist] rate itself.”

Cooking in a flag mess is more than just providing fancy meals; it is often an integral part of the art of diplomacy. Many local and foreign dignitaries come to meet with the NAVCENT commander, and many of those meetings take place over a shared meal.

An important example of such a visit occured June 12, when His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of the Kingdom of Bahrain, visited NAVCENT and shared a Ghabga dinner meal. Ghabga is social meal taken in some Muslim countries during Ramadan.

By not only preparing a meal that respects the sensitivities of different cultures but also is attractive and appealing, the culinary specialists play an outsized role in helping the commander accomplish goals and meet common objectives with leaders in the region.

Beyond the diplomatic implications, getting an ACF certification is a career accomplishment for Ndambuki and Colburn that will add to a new flavor of expertise to their cuisine as well as their resume.

Established in 1929, ACF is the premier professional chefs’ organization in North America with more than 17,500 members in over 150 chapters nationwide. The ACF offers educational resources, training, apprenticeship and programmatic accreditation designed to enhance professional growth for all current and future chefs. The ACF is an accredited school, similar to other Navy rates that can achieve civilian certification through the Department of Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (DON COOL). Culinary specialists interested in testing for an ACF certification can register for the exam through DON COOL.

U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse comprises 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.


For further questions, please contact U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs Office
011-973-1785-4562 or