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Culinary Specialist

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class John Paul Pedero, left, and Culinary Specialist 1st Class Dion Yipon prepare a meal in preparation for the Best of the Mess Competition.

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Culinary Specialists operate and manage Navy messes and dining facilities, providing hospitality and meal services to entire Navy bases and ships. There are two types of Culinary Specialists depending on whether or not you choose to serve on submarines, both with corresponding responsibilities:

Culinary Specialist (CS)

  • Preparing menus for meal service and catering service
  • Operating kitchen and dining facilities on shore and at sea
  • Providing meals for fellow Sailors, Commanding Officers, Admirals, senior government executives and foreign dignitaries
  • Operating the White House Mess for the President of the United States
  • Managing inventories, food orders and financial records
  • Overseeing shipboard living quarters and on-base hotel lodging
  • Serving as a flight attendant aircrewman
  • Ensuring food safety programs and regulations

Culinary Specialist Submarines (CSS)

  • Preparing menus for meal service
  • Operating shipboard kitchen and dining facilities
  • Managing inventories, food orders and financial records
  • Ordering necessary supplies
  • Serving as personal food service specialists for Commanding Officers
  • Operating and managing living quarters aboard submarines
  • Ensuring food safety programs and regulations

Work Environment

Culinary Specialists work as part of a team in kitchens, dining areas, living quarters and food service storerooms aboard ships and onshore bases. Culinary Specialist Submarines (CSS) have the opportunity to serve aboard submarines.

Training & Advancement

Upon completion of initial training at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes (known as Boot Camp), you’ll report for specialized training including:

Class “A” Technical School (5 weeks) in Fort Lee, VA, for instruction and training in food preparation, nutrition and dining service.

After “A” School, Culinary Specialist Submarines (CSS) candidates will continue their training:

Basic Enlisted Submarine School (9 weeks) in Groton, CT, for training in basic submarine systems. Note that this training is only for Culinary Specialists Submarines.

After completing training, Culinary Specialists and Culinary Specialist Submarines will receive their first assignments. Culinary Specialists may be assigned to ships or shore stations, while Culinary Specialist Submarines may be assigned to submarines or shore stations.

Advanced Training

Advanced training as a Culinary Specialist may also be available during later stages of your career. For those with further leadership aspirations and a college degree, Officer roles may be available, providing opportunities to lead and train others.

Post-Service Opportunities

Specialized training received and work experience gained in the course of service can lead to valuable credentialing and occupational opportunities in related fields in the civilian world whether you're a CSS or CS, such as Certified Food Employee (CFE) credentials and employment in the restaurant and hotel industries.

Education Opportunities

Beyond offering access to professional credentials and certifications, Navy technical and operational training in the culinary and hospitality fields can translate to credit hours toward a bachelor’s or associate degree through the American Council on Education.

You may also continue your education through undergraduate degree opportunities like the Navy College Program and Tuition Assistance and the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Qualifications & Requirements

A high-school diploma or equivalent is required to become an Enlisted Sailor and a Culinary Specialist.

In addition to an interest in nutrition and culinary arts, applicants should possess good arithmetic and verbal skills, creative ability and record-keeping skills.

Important personal traits for this role include the ability to follow instructions, perform detailed work, and cooperate well as part of a team. You should also enjoy working with people.

Culinary Specialists who wish to serve aboard submarines as a CSS must volunteer for submarine service.

General qualifications may vary depending upon whether you’re currently serving, whether you've served before or whether you've never served before.

Part-Time Opportunities

Serving part-time as a Navy Reserve Sailor, your duties will be carried out during your scheduled drilling and training periods. During monthly drilling, Culinary Specialists in the Navy Reserve typically work at a location close to their homes.

For annual training, you may serve anywhere in the world, including locations in the U.S., at bases overseas, or in areas where humanitarian needs are great.

Take a moment to learn more about the general roles and responsibilities of Navy Reserve Sailors.

Most of what you do in the Navy Reserve is considered training. The basic Navy Reserve commitment involves training a minimum of one weekend a month (referred to as drilling) and two weeks a year (referred to as Annual Training) – or the equivalent of that.

Culinary Specialists in the Navy Reserve serve in an Enlisted role. Before receiving the ongoing professional training that comes with the job, initial training requirements must be met.

For current or former military Enlisted servicemembers, prior experience satisfies the initial Recruit Training requirement, so you will not need to go through Boot Camp again.

For those without prior military experience, you will need to meet the initial Recruit Training requirement by attending Boot Camp in Great Lakes, IL. This training course will prepare you for service in the Navy Reserve and count as your first Annual Training.