By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (EXW) J. Michael Schwartz, USS Boxer Public Affairs
USS BOXER, At Sea - One of Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Enrico Roque's talents is carving designs into fruit to be put on display in the galley aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4).
Roque learned the basics of food preparation and then went on to hone his skills on the intricacies of carving fruit into works of art.
"I learned food carving onboard USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) in 2007 on deployment when a culinary specialist from the civilian ship Cherryn came on board and had showed me basic carving. From that point, I discovered I wanted to make it a hobby every day," he said.
Taking his time to carve designs, Roque skilfully uses a basic paring knife to whittle away at the fruit rinds by hand. Carvings take several hours to complete and he stores the pieces in ice water to keep them from wilting. Fruits and vegetables are fragile and Roque takes extreme care to ensure each piece is carefully set in place.
"I love making dragons out of carrots and watermelon, and carving roses in watermelon and faces also, I did an American Indian face for a reception once," Roque added.
He said he spends his free time coming up with various ideas to use in the future, "I called one 'fruit paradise', and made birds and parrots out of potatoes."
Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Ramon M. Lang spoke highly of Roque's work, "It's an art form, it takes a lot of practice, you have to be one with the art. He has the knack for it." He said the pieces are displayed throughout the Chiefs' Mess, the Crew's Mess decks and the Wardroom.
"He's a very creative guy and his work boosts the morale in the galley, he does quality work and it is outstanding," Lang added.
Roque said he can fill fruits like honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon with the remains that would normally be discarded, and enjoys throwing himself into his work and coming up with new ideas.
"I was surrounded by fruit and I had plenty of practice. Every day I would put a new carving on a fruit [describing] the country I was in," he said.
"I saw a cauliflower and I thought 'can I do something with this?' And so I made some sheep out of it. It's like a hidden talent, sometimes I would surprise myself, [and think] how did I do this?" he said.
A native of the Philippines, Roque said carving designs takes ingenuity and patience. Making one wrong move can be disastrous and require starting over.
"My thought is that if a CS is patient they can take anything and carve it," Roque said.
Boxer food service division is currently in competition for the fiscal year 2013 NEY award, and the professionalism and attention of Sailors like Roque are part of what makes his division stand out.