Navy Job: Culinary Specialist (CS)

Culinary Specialists in the Navy help feed the troops

Navy chef takes part in culinary competition. VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Feb. 11, 2011) Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Tad Pooler, assigned to Commander, Submarine Forces, prepares strawberries flambe as his dessert entry during the Best of the Mess Challenge competition at the Virginia Beach Sheraton Oceanfront hotel. The Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic culinary team competed against four other commands showcasing their culinary specialties.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd A. Schaffer/Released

In the Navy, the sailors who feed the rest of the troops aren't just cooks, they're Culinary Specialists (CS). They not only prepare food for their fellow sailors but for admirals, senior government executives and run the White House mess hall for the President.

They are responsible for all aspects of the dining (mess decks) and living areas. Culinary Specialists are vital in maintaining crew morale on all Navy ships, submarines and shore bases.

The CS (Surface) and CSS (Submarine) ratings both carry a 60-month service obligation.

Duties of Navy Culinary Specialists

These sailors receive extensive training in cooking, baking, dining and living area management. They prepare menus, order food items, operate kitchen and dining facilities, and keep records for food supplies and financial budgets. They serve as personal food service specialists for high ranking officers both aboard ship and at shore bases.

Culinary Specialists work in kitchens, dining areas, living quarters and storerooms where food supplies are kept. The work is primarily physical and involves working as part of a team, often in close quarters and sometimes under adverse conditions. 

These sailors also learn the proper procedures for food handling and preparation, including the correct sanitary conditions, and the correct temperatures for storing various food items. 

Although previous experience as a chef or cook is beneficial, it's not required.

Qualifying as a Navy Culinary Specialist

Sailors interested in this job need a combined score of 88 in the verbal (VE) and arithmetic reasoning (AR) segments of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests. 

Technical school (known in the Navy as "A" school) for culinary specialists takes place at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence at Fort Lee in Virginia. Those pursuing the submarine category of this rating (meaning they plan to serve as a CS aboard a submarine) will take four weeks of basic enlisted submarine school in Groton, Connecticut following A school.

There is no Department of Defense security clearance required for this job, no color perception restriction, and it is open to non-U.S. citizens. 

As with any Navy rating, career advancement for culinary specialists is determined by personnel levels. But since every ship, submarine and Navy base needs people to prepare food (because everyone has to eat), there is always work for culinary specialists. Advancement opportunities always are promising for sailors in this rating.

Sea/Shore Rotation for Navy Culinary Specialists

  • First Sea Tour: 48 months
  • First Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Second Sea Tour: 48 months
  • Second Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Third Sea Tour: 36 months
  • Third Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Fourth Sea Tour: 36 months
  • Forth Shore Tour: 36 months

Sea tours and shore tours for sailors that have completed four sea tours will be 36 months at sea followed by 36 months ashore until retirement.

Civilian Jobs Similar to Navy Culinary Specialist

With the training you'll receive in this role, you'll be qualified for a variety of civilian food service jobs; you could be a chef at a fine restaurant or a diner cook, for instance.