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Idaho Cuisine to Sail Aboard Navy Submarine Thanks to SVCI Partnership
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Manuel Amador tries his hand at cooking Basque paella and a rack of lamb. “So far, I’ve loved the Parmesan cheese trout—it’s so flavorful,” he said.
   
Friday, May 24, 2024
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Cody Smart is learning to cook Idaho potatoes and trout this week at the Sun Valley Culinary Institute. In a couple weeks, this budding chef will head to the ocean to train in scuba diving so he can dive under the new USS IDAHO submarine to check for anything that might harm it or the crew.

It’s not something most chefs must learn to do, but chefs aboard submarines must learn a variety of jobs because the crew is so small. What they’re doing here is out of the ordinary for submarine chefs.

While here, Smart and fellow chef Manuel Amador are learning to cook Idaho elk, lamb, lentils and Basque dishes. And they’re touring Riverence trout raising facilities near Twin Falls, as well as Lava Lake Lamb near Carey and Ironwood Mycology, which grows exotic mushrooms in a former Mormon church in Richfield.

 
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Those taking part in the two-week experience learning about Idaho food products and cuisine were Cody Smart, Manuel Amador, Karl Uri, Michelle Mauselle, Richard Colburn and Scott Rumph, a retired Navy captain who is raising funds for the USS Idaho SSN 799 Commissioning Committee.
 

“This unique opportunity will showcase Idaho’s food to the world,” says SVCI Executive Director Karl Uri. “It’s an honor for SVCI to be part of this historic event, and we hope to continue to assist those who support and serve as military personnel in Idaho who would like to learn more about Idaho’s food resources and cuisine.”

Navy submarine chefs usually do not have the occasion to learn about the cuisine of the states after which their subs are named, said Richard Colburn, chairman of the USS IDAHO SSN 799 Commissioning Committee and a retired Navy captain.

But Smart and Amador are learning to prepare Idaho-inspired cuisine like mini-Idaho potatoes with smoked trout and Idaho caviar to serve admirals and other foreign dignitaries who visit the sub while it is in port. And they are learning to make dishes like parmesan and Idaho potato-flake crusted trout to feed the 130 sailors who will be living and working on the sub for six months at a time

“When you’re on a sub and can’t see your family for six months, food is a huge part of morale,” said Coburn. “The Navy allows more dollars for food for person than other services do.”

 
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Ret. Capt. Richard Colburn took a panorama of the 377-foot long submarine with a banner featuring the State of Idaho Seal and the ship’s crest during the christening ceremony.
 

Melissa Mauselle, the SVCI chef who has been working with the sailors started them out learning about Idaho potatoes and mushrooms as they made such dishes as potato gnocchi.

“We’ve cooked with Zursun Idaho heirloom beans and lentils. We’ve learned to make Basque dishes like chorizo, red bean stew, Idaho potato croquettes, paella and Basque bread,” she said. “In addition to fresh ingredients, I’m teaching them how to use things like Idaho potato flakes that will store well for extended periods of time. They run out of fresh food in a couple of weeks so they need those foods to fall back on.”

During their two-week stay the chefs have visited Craters of the Moon, eaten at Ketchum’s iconic Pioneer Saloon, toured the baking facilities of Bigwood Bread, visited the Idaho Potato Commission and dined at the Gowen Field Idaho National Guard Dining Facility in Boise.

“Two things I said: I’m never going to be a cook and I’m never going to be in a sub, and here I am,” said Smart, who grew up in Georgia. “I will be taking back the flavors of Idaho to the USS IDAHO.”

 
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Cody Smart and Manuel Amador, seen here with Chef Melissa Mauselle, have also visited with the Ketchum Rotary Club and American Legion members while here.
 

Amador, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba, said he always wanted to serve his country but that his parents pushed back on him joining the armed services. He went to culinary school and worked at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach before the COVID pandemic shut down restaurants, prompting him to enlist in the Navy.

“I had not heard of the Basques so it’s been interesting to learn all the history behind them and their dishes,” he said. “And I’ve loved the mountains, waking up in the morning and seeing the snow on the peaks, the wildlife.”

The boat the two chefs will serve on is four stories tall and four stories wide.

“Imagine a skyscraper that’s horizontal,” said Amador. “It’s more spacious than you would think.”

 
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Manuel Amador watches as Sun Valley Culinary Institute chef Melissa Mauselle shows him how to prepare golden Idaho trout.
 

The nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarine was christened in March 2024 in a ceremony witnessed by 4,000 people, including Sun Valley’s Dave Sturtevant and Linda and Bill Potter, who called it one of the most patriotic things he’d ever seen.

It was blessed by members of the Nez Perce and Shoshone-Bannock tribes, with marching band music  written by a University of Idaho professor. Rather than christening it with champagne, ship sponsor Terry Stackley broke a bottle containing water from Redfish Lake, Henrys Lake, Lake Pend Oreille and Payette Lake.

“The first water to touch the USS IDAHO was Idaho water that was carbonated to look like champagne,” said Colburn.

The interior will feature walls painted with scenes of Idaho like the Sawtooth Mountains—another morale booster for sailors.

The fifth ship named for Idaho, it will be lowered into the water in June and is expected to go for its first test drive in six months, after which it is expected to be commissioned in spring 2025. It will be launched in two years and is expected to serve for 35 years.

A lot of Idaho hands are on its advanced technology.

A photonics mast utilizing fiber optics has replaced the periscope, with sailors viewing surroundings through multiple screens like those on “Star Trek.”

“They control it with an X-box, meaning these kids have been training all their lives for this kind of work,” said Colburn.

The sub is extremely quiet, thanks to technology developed at the Navy’s Acoustic Research Detachment on Lake Pend Oreille. It will not have to be refueled while out, thanks to technology developed at Idaho National Laboratory near Arco.

“So, Idaho has much more to do with the Navy than most other states,” said Colburn.

Amador and Smart will teach what they learn in Sun Valley to five co-chefs. One chef at a time will be tasked with cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner in a kitchen a third the size of the one at Ketchum’s American Legion Hall; another chef will bake bread and pastries at night, allowing the others to perform a myriad of other duties.

Everyone on board has to know how to perform several jobs—hence, Smart’s dive into scuba diving.

“Most of their current activities revolve around program development, training and qualifications in preparation for operating the future submarine,” said Colburn.

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