In a 12-by-8-foot kitchen in Afghanistan, with a grill, field range, and tray-ration heating system, Marine Corporal Daniel Russo cooks two hot meals a day, seven days a week. The Watertown native is solely responsible for preparing food for between 50 to 80 service men and women, and contract workers. “I am going off what I like,” the reservist said, referring to the chicken sauteed in green beans he had served that night. “It is not anything I haven’t seen before but you have to use your imagination with what you have got.”
Russo’s imagination has not only caught the attention of his fellow Marines, but earned him the title of the 2013 Food Service Specialist of the Year by the Major General Hill Awards program, hosted by the National Restaurant Association Military Foundation. The recognition is not for his current deployment, but for the preparation of more than 13,800 meals for drill and annual events in 2012. “Russo’s demeanor and attitude toward his job is unparalleled,” wrote Gunnery Sergeant Charles Parmenter in his nomination of Russo.