Cookin’ with Coasties: FS2 Mark Denton

Cookin’ with Coasties is a series that features food specialists stationed at Coast Guard units throughout Alaska, and recipes to their favorite meals they prepare for their crews.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Denton, a food service specialist aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mustang, prepares lunch for his shipmates in Seward, Alaska, Oct. 15, 2014. Food service specialists in the Coast Guard can receive a wide variety of specialized culinary training from cooking to food presentation and kitchen management. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Denton, a food service specialist aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mustang, prepares lunch for his shipmates in Seward, Alaska, Oct. 15, 2014. Food service specialists in the Coast Guard can receive a wide variety of specialized culinary training from cooking to food presentation and kitchen management. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert.

It’s been said an army marches on its stomach, and the Coast Guard is no exception. Without nutritious food and stocked larders, Coast Guard crews would be unable to conduct operations while underway for extended periods of time, so it’s up to food service specialists like Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Denton of the Coast Guard Cutter Mustang to make sure their shipmates are well fed and provisioned before heading out to sea.

Denton, a native of San Jose, Calif., joined the Coast Guard with an interest in law enforcement but soon discovered his true talents were geared more toward pepper shakers than pepper spray. Denton’s culinary skills were first noticed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Alert in Astoria, Ore., where he assisted with food preparation as a mess cook and, encouraged by his supervisor, Denton trained to become a food service specialist.

“My chief told me he was impressed with my cooking and asked if I’d ever considered becoming an FS,” said Denton. “I really enjoyed working in the galley and the creative aspect of cooking so I signed up for the Coast Guard’s food service specialist ‘A’ school. Where a painter has his brushes and paint, a chef can create works of art with utensils and ingredients.”

Since leaving Astoria, Denton has had plenty of time to adjust to the challenges of both preparing meals while underway and the occasional difficulty in securing provisions in Alaska. As a food service specialist, Denton doesn’t just cook meals for the crew of the Mustang. He’s also responsible for ordering the meat, vegetables and other the ingredients necessary for recipes.

“Alaskan waters can get pretty rough and the galley on a patrol boat like the Mustang isn’t very big so it can get kind of crazy when you’re trying to cook in heavy surf with the boat rocking back and forth and your pots sliding across the stove,” said Denton. “I’ve also got to stay on top of ordering because it can sometimes take awhile to get certain meats or fresh fruit and vegetables shipped up here. I have to make sure we have four days of food aboard the cutter in case we need to get underway for a case. Luckily, I’ve been able to work with the local supermarkets to have things ordered in advance.”

Food service specialists like Denton improve the morale of their shipmates by providing healthy and savory meals, but keeping Coast Guard crews fed can also enhance their productivity and awareness when it matters most. Sometimes the reward of a satisfied, alert crew is a safe, successful rescue operation and this isn’t lost on Denton.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Denton, shows off his work aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mustang, in Seward, Alaska, Oct. 15, 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Denton, shows off his work aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mustang, in Seward, Alaska, Oct. 15, 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert.

“One of my first supervisors used to say the Coast Guard needs all of its members to do its job,” Denton said. “We keep spirits high and make sure our shipmates have the energy they need to get through the day. I love what I do.”

Growing up in San Jose, Denton was surrounded by a wide variety of cuisines and experienced many different tastes and cultural dishes. One of his favorite recipes is below:

Big Island Rice
Serves 6 people

2 Cups Jasmine Rice
1/4 Cup Sesame Oil
1 Can Lite Spam
1 Bunch Scallions
1 Small green cabbage
4 Eggs
2 TBSP Milk
3/4 Cup Coca-cola
1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup Sweet Chili Sauce
1 TBSP Minced Cilantro

Rinse rice until water becomes clear to remove starch, cook until rice is tender follow directions on bag. (Rice cooker is the preferred method). Place cooked rice on cookie sheet and let cool for 30min. 1/4 inch dice Spam and Scallions. Chop Cabbage into 1/2 inch dice, set aside. Once rice is cooled heat skillet to approximately 350 degrees add Sesame oil to hot pan, add rice and let cook. Cook 4min then flip rice, cook another 4min. Add Spam, Scallions, and cabbage to rice let brown. Mix Coke, Soy sauce, Sweet chili sauce, and cilantro in bowl. Add sauce mixture to rice and stir until fully covered. Remove rice. Cook scrambled eggs with milk until fluffy or to your liking. Serve on top or mix into rice. Enjoy!

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