Every meal’s a feast at Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — If you think preparing Thanksgiving dinner is a chore, take a moment to imagine the culinary muscle required to feed more than 4,000 hungry U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen. All at once. Every night.

Tougher still, the galley crew’s goal is to serve the time-strapped future naval officers within five minutes, so they can get to extracurricular events and study hall after less than half an hour at the tables.

“I’ve never seen people eat faster than here,” said Midshipman Andrew Poulin, a senior from Boxborough, Mass., who also expresses awe at the scope of the food services. “It’s just unbelievable how they do it.”

The group meals are considered part of the school’s efforts to foster a culture of unity. Last year, Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler, the superintendent, raised the number of meals at which attendance is mandatory.

It takes a powerful kitchen to handle that kind of cooking, plus a brigade of 80 fast-moving cooks and 100 servers to roll out the chow. One meal takes 12 cooks and eight food service workers to load carts and help clean up. And how’s this for a grocery bill? The government spends $43,000 every day on all this food for the Naval Academy.

Need a ton of French fries? The academy’s pair of 30-foot deep fryers can blast those out in an hour.

“We can do 560 turkeys at a time,” said Dan Eytchison, the general foreman who runs the galley.

On a recent evening, cooks prepared 500 gallons of chili for dinner. The meal required 1,600 pounds of ground beef, 35 cases of kidney beans and 17 cases of canned chopped tomatoes. It was all wheeled up to 120-gallon steam kettles, and a three-person team cracked open the large cans and dumped in the ingredients. It takes a stir paddle the size of an oar to mix it.

The galley is dormant for about six hours a day — between 9:30 p.m. and 3:45 a.m. The rest of the time, it’s in high gear, cooking for about 4,400 midshipmen.

While galleys on aircraft carriers also feed thousands of hungry men and women, the academy galley is different because the meals happen all at once.

“The unique challenges at feeding everybody at one time is just keeping it hot and fresh,” Eytchison said.

Midshipmen eat about 4,000 pounds of meat and 2,000 pounds of vegetables a day. The academy goes through 1,200 pounds of bananas a day, as well as about 200 pounds each of apples and oranges. The galley also has a bakery, and Starbucks coffee is offered at breakfast and dinner, although only about a quarter of the midshipmen drink coffee.

As dinner looms, the midshipmen file in from four directions inside the vast T-shaped King Hall, which was first built in 1909 to feed 1,800 students. A $21 million renovation this year, the first in 53 years, added skylights to the 65,000-square-foot hall. Flat-screen televisions were added so people in the far ends can see people making announcements.

There are 388 tables, with 12 seats each, and members from all four classes are mixed together at a table to talk about their day and bond. They switch every semester.

The chatter is boisterous as midshipmen enter at 6:30 p.m., but they quiet down as they gather at tables to hear a dinner bell ring, sitting in unison at the command: “Seats!”

When it’s all over, the dirty dishes require the quick work of cleaning crews and 25-foot dish-washing machines.

By 7 p.m. each night, the huge dinning hall is nearly empty, except for the cleaning crews who clear the tables and haul away about 120 bags of garbage.

“I’m still kind of in awe,” Poulin said after dinner. “But I think, if I had the choice, I’d still go back to Mom’s cooking.”

Talk to us

More in Local News

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Car crashes into Everett apartment, displacing residents

No one was injured in the crash late Friday, according to Everett police.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Most Read