Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
The crew aboard the USS Nitze may be in port in Europe on Christmas Day – taking a break from their deployment overseas – but a Buffalo-area guy will help bring them a taste of the States during the holiday.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Brendan G. Cameron, a Kenmore native and KenmoreWestHigh School graduate, joined the Navy three days after 9/11.
He has since learned his supervisory trade on the mess hall side of the Navy and has served on the Nitze for two years and five months. He and his wife, Rebeca, have two children, Conner, 9, and Kaylin, 5.
Naval officials put me in touch with Cameron – subject in today’s What are you eating? feature in WNY Refresh – via email late last week.
They also provided me with the menu for Christmas and New Year’s dinners for more than 300 sailors aboard the destroyer:
• Christmas: Baked ham, roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, Southern-style sweet potatoes, bread stuffing, glazed carrots, succotash, chicken and wild rice soup, assorted pies, apple, peach and cherry cobbler.
• New Year’s Eve: Grilled steak, lobster tail, loaded mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, asparagus, corn on the cob, potato soup, assorted cheese cake.
Cameron’s love for Western New York shined through as he answered questions about his service and his hometown. Here are his answers to questions that I didn’t have room to publish in Refresh:
Do you still call Western New York home when you’re not on active duty?
We live in Moyock, N.C., but Western New York will always be my home. I miss it very much. I have most of my family still living in the Buffalo, Kenmore, Town of Tonawanda and City of Tonawanda areas. I’m a die-hard Bills and Sabres fan, which will never change. I also miss all the good foods that come from up there and when I get leave to come up there I try to take it all in.
How many people are on the mess staff and what is your role on the staff?
There are 25 personnel that make up the mess staff. I am one of the Galley supervisors as well as the maintenance person for our division.
Do you try to cook any of your favorite Buffalo foods aboard the Nitze?
Well for some reason when we are over seas we get Frank’s Hot Sauce, so I like to makes some good Buffalo wings when we are over here. I have a couple other shipmates who are from NY as well and they enjoy them as well.
If it’s OK to ask, will you spend the holidays at the base in Norfolk, Va. or somewhere on the water and, if overseas, generally where?
At the moment our ship is deployed and will be deployed through the holidays, however we will be in port around Europe for Christmas, so Sailors here will at least be able to contact their families using base Wi-Fi.
What are the biggest three challenges of serving more than 300 sailors their daily meals?
Our records keeper, CS2 Christopher Depko of New Jersey, has to ... prepare a menu that is nutritious and keeps us at cost. We have to prepare a wide variety of nutritious food for all sailors’ palates. Not everyone eats the same thing so there are times we have to stray from what the recipe card calls for to prepare the right meal for every one or at least the majority of the crew. Another hard part is taking that minimal amount of money that we are allotted and making a meal that will put smiles on everyone’s face. We are put to the test 3 times a day by some picky eaters. We are one of the biggest morale boosters in the Navy, because I don’t know about you but if I have a bad breakfast or a bad meal it takes away from my mood and ability to carry out a mission properly.
How much latitude do you and the mess staff have when it comes to choosing what those sailors eat on a daily basis?
We follow the Naval Supply Command’s administered menu to the best of our ability when we are deployed because some products are not available to us like they are when we are back in the states. So being under way, we can request to make menu changes through our Commanding Officer.
What are the healthiest foods you tend to serve?
While we do have fried foods on board, our cooks do make at least 1 main product from scratch each meal which is considered the healthy choice for that meal. We also have a salad bar which is stocked with fresh vegetables and other items that health conscious sailors can consume, along with a soup which the cooks prepare from scratch as well.
What foods tend to be most popular aboard the destroyer?
Chicken alfredo, clam chowder, spaghetti, orange chicken, fried chicken, meat loaf, Fresh bread we make on board, and eggs made to order ... omelettes, scrambled with fresh vegetables and ham or sausage, fresh eggs over easy, over medium or fried eggs as well as hard boiled eggs.
Do you get to eat your meals before or after the sailors are served?
Our cooks generally are allowed to eat before the meal is served, however there are times that cooking certain products takes too much time and then they would either rotate during the meal while it's being served or they can choose to eat after the meal.
What are the staples of your diet?
As one of the supervisors I tend to eat a little bit of everything on the line for each meal. I am not a picky eater. I have learned to like many different types of foods since joining the Navy. For me though, I am trying to gain weight so I tend to eat more foods that are high in protein and carbohydrates.
Have you been out at sea during any Christmases past? What has that been like?
I was deployed to Cuba for detainee operations and had to stay there over Christmas. It was hard not being there with my family but I did get to call everyone back home and hear my family's voices which helps with being away. The office that I was attached to was invited over to our captain's house with his family to have a big Christmas dinner so it made us feel at least a little like we were home.
Anyone you’d like to say Happy Holidays to here in the Buffalo area?
Actually there are quite a few people I would like to say happy holidays to. My mom and sister (Janet and Emily Kay), my Grandparents (Joan and Howard Kirkwood), Nana and Pop-pop (Richmond and Lorie Cameron) all my aunts, uncles and cousins, Brian and Jen Williams of Kenmore, Tom and Kristina LaRussa of the Town of Tonawanda.