African American History Month: Food Service Specialist 2nd Class Lee Johnson

Petty Officer 2nd Class Lee Johnson serves lunch to his shipmates at Marine Safety Unit Valdez, Alaska.  Johnson joined to the Coast Guard to follow in the footsteps of his father.  U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Lee Johnson serves lunch to his shipmates at Marine Safety Unit Valdez, Alaska. Johnson joined to the Coast Guard to follow in the footsteps of his father. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Every February, the Coast Guard joins the nation in celebrating African American History Month. From Alex Haley to Jacob Lawrence, African American Coast Guardsmen have contributed to both their communities and the arts. At Marine Safety Unit Valdez, Alaska, Petty Officer 2nd Class Lee Johnson continues that proud tradition for both the service and his family by pursuing the culinary arts.

Born in Norfolk, Va., Johnson joined the Coast Guard to follow in the footsteps of his father, David Johnson Sr., who retired after 20 years of honorable service.

“My father retired as a first class yeoman,” said Johnson. “Neither my brother or sister had any plans to join the service but I wanted to keep it in the family, so I decided to join.”

Johnson has always wanted to be a chef, but he didn’t have money for culinary school. Fortunately, the Coast Guard allowed him to follow his dream as a food service specialist and honor his father’s commitment to his country.

“I learned the Coast Guard had a cooking program, which was perfect because I could make my dad proud by joining the service and study cooking,” Johnson said. “Joining the Coast Guard has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Johnson has been a part of the Coast Guard seven years and, when he isn’t feeding hungry shipmates, he finds time to help out his neighbors. While serving at Station Pascagoula, Miss., Johnson prepared meals for multiple high school ROTC programs and, during his time aboard the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, he participated in the Partnership in Education program and visited Alaskan villages to distribute gifts dressed as Santa Claus. Playing Santa is a tradition he’s continued in Valdez.

Santa Claus (secretly Petty Officer 2nd Class Lee Johnson prepares to distribute gifts at Marine Safety Unit Valdez, Alaska.  Playing Santa to give gifts to Alaskan families is just one of the ways Johnson contributes to the community.  U.S. Coast Guard photo

Santa Claus (secretly Petty Officer 2nd Class Lee Johnson prepares to distribute gifts at Marine Safety Unit Valdez, Alaska. Playing Santa to give gifts to Alaskan families is just one of the ways Johnson contributes to the community. U.S. Coast Guard photo

“For me, serving in the Coast Guard isn’t just about serving meals to the crew,” said Johnson. “I’ve helped middle schoolers prepare a spaghetti dinner night, and I’ve helped first graders learn to read and write.”

Whether he is cooking up nutritious meals for his shipmates or delivering gifts to Alaskan children dressed as Santa Claus, Johnson’s contributions to his command and to his community are a great example of how African Americans have made the Coast Guard a better service.

No article about a Food Service Specialist would be complete without a signature dish from the chef. Below is one Johnson’s favorites:

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

One of my favorite dishes to make is my homemade mac and cheese. I start off with a roux and then add heavy cream. I like to use 3 types of cheese, shredded cheddar, shredded monterey jack and apple-smoked gouda. I mince up an onion, some garlic and bacon, then sauté all 3 of them together and add it to the cheese sauce. I usually add different seasonings depending on the taste of the cheese sauce at this point. After I get the perfect taste I add the sauce to the cooked noodles and add shredded cheddar and monterey jack to the top of the mac and cheese. Finally, just bake it until the cheese is perfectly melted.

Tags: , , , ,