The USS America in the Sea and Air Parade. Photo by Chris Stone

Updated at 7 a.m. Feb. 17, 2017

Restaurants that win Michellin stars are considered the crème de la crème. In the Navy, food operations that win five stars are eligible for the Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Food Service Award.

The USS America acts as the flagship of an expeditionary group or amphibious ready group. Photo by Chris Stone

On Tuesday, Naval Base San Diego was announced by the secretary of the Navy as the 2017 winner for outstanding food service.

So was the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship USS America — winning in the best large surface ship category.

The awards are named after Capt. Edward F. Ney, who procured food for the Navy during World War II. The honors are based on surprise one-day inspections.

“It gets more and more difficult each year to pick the best galleys because so many exceed the standards of excellence we expect from our culinary specialists,” said Cmdr. Keith Capper, food service director at Naval Supply Systems Command.

“It’s a tough competition. There are more than 300 messes in the U.S. Navy. Making it to the finals in Ney Award selections is a huge accomplishment.”

Other honorees were the East Coast-based submarine USS Missouri; dock landing ship USS Ashland and aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, both with a home port in Japan; and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia.

“The Ney Award is the highest honor a galley can receive,” said Karin George, NIC Ashore galley program manager. “It recognizes outstanding customer service, sanitation and safety observances, fiscal accountability — and food that tastes great.”

Naval Base San Diego was winner in the Large General Mess category, while Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story was the Small General Mess winner.

“No one person wins the Ney for the operation,” George said. “It takes the entire galley team to ensure that every day the service is consistently outstanding.”

Ney led the Subsistence Division of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts between 1940 and 1945.

“Winning the Ney Award means that the efforts of the entire galley staff were recognized by senior leadership.” George said. “No one person wins the Ney for the operation. It takes the entire galley team to ensure that every day the service is consistently outstanding.”

“The Ney process begins a year prior with local and region assessments, followed by a NIC inspector’s visit and nomination,” George said. “Following those assessments, [Naval Supply Systems Command] conducts the final round of inspections and selects the best overall galley operation.”

The annual awards encourage excellence in Navy Food Service programs with the objective of improving the quality of life for Navy personnel.

“We have 82 ashore galley operations within NIC, so selection as the winner of the Ney speaks volumes to the outstanding service, pride, and professionalism demonstrated by the winning operation,” added George.

The Navy secretary and the International Food Service Executives Association established the Ney Memorial Awards Program in 1958.

In 2016, Naval Base Point Loma was Small General Mess Category winner, and Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, won for Large General Mess.

— City News Service contributed to this report.

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