PHILIPPINE SEA -- A former Navy and Russian Iron Chef "cooks" up morale aboard the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) during Operation Damayan.
Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Edgar Tandoy, his wife and three kids all have personal ties with George Washington Strike Group's relief efforts in support of the Philippine government and military.
Tandoy is an East Bagong Barrio Kalookan City, Philippine native and his wife has 10 family members who live in the Super Typhoon Haiyan affected areas.
"My wife's family has been affected by the typhoon," said Tandoy. "They lived next to the coast and lost their house. Food and clean water are fairly scarce because they are far away from any major cities."
Although Tandoy's family was in an area with severely damaged civilian communication, he knows they are alive because they were able to get a call through.
"My brother-in-law was able to contact us and let us know they were alright," said Tandoy. "We are currently awaiting their second call, although we do not know when that will be."
Tandoy, who cooks for the crew, supports morale by providing high-quality talent and care to 18,000 meals served daily aboard the ship.
"He puts a lot of passion into everything he cooks," said Chief Culinary Specialist Matthew McFarlane, Tandoy's leading chief petty officer. "I have not heard one complaint; he is an extremely good cook."
Tandoy won a pre-iron chef competition aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCS 19) in 2010 that sent him to Vladivostok, Russia to compete one-on-one with one of Russia's top chefs to earn the title of "Iron Chef of Russia."
"In order to prepare for the competition, I had to prepare my senses," said Tandoy. "I had my personal motto: 'if it doesn't smell right, it doesn't taste right.' So I quit smoking because it made everything smell off and taste bland."
Iron Chef is a Japanese ingredient-themed cooking show where a competitor challenges one of the show's "Iron Chefs" to a cook-off. Whoever creates the best dish after 90 minutes, based on taste and presentation, wins.
"Our theme of the night was curry," said Tandoy. "When I won, I felt tired but very proud because my son, daughter and little one were so happy for me. When I cook, I cook for others."
Tandoy was offered a promotion as head cook in the commanding officer's galley but respectfully turned it down to cook for the crew on the mess decks.
"I turned down the offer because I felt that I needed to cook for a larger group of people," said Tandoy. "My food is meant to be enjoyed by a mass of people. I am just a regular cook, not a Russian Iron Chef."
The George Washington Carrier Strike Group supports the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade to assist the Philippine government in response to the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Republic of the Philippines.