Flight Kitchen prides itself on being fast, friendly and delicious
by Nick Stubbs
There's Burger King, Taco Bell and a few other fast-food restaurants on base, but for those in the hurry-up world along the flightline, the ultimate fast food stop is the Flight Kitchen.
Located in Hangar 2, the Flight Kitchen has a reputation of great, friendly service and a quality menu that has made it a sleeper lunch choice, even for those who have to travel across base.
"We have a pretty loyal following," said Master Sgt. Nicholas Rivernider, Flight Kitchen manager. "We have a lot of people who pretty much have to eat here because they can't leave the flightline or are flying out, but we also have people who come here just for the food we have."
What's hot on the menu? Burgers and fries, always, but taco salad is a hit and servicemembers craving it show up each Thursday, when the specialty is on the menu.
Staffed by four Airmen and five civilians, the Flight Kitchen is for military personnel only, though civilian employees on base with written permission who frequently fly are allowed to dine there. It is open 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. but due to the nature of the mission, someone is on call 24 hours a day all week.
"We've had to come in at all hours, depending," said Sergeant Rivernider, who said often times notice is short.
He recalls having to come in to handle 180 box lunches a day for four consecutive days for kids visiting the base as part of the D.A.R.E. drug prevention program, only to find out on one day they had to scramble together another 60 "surprise" lunches on top of that to feed even more kids.
One recent weekend, Sergeant Rivernider pulled a weekend shift to prepare 203 meals to support ground Soldiers on a training mission.
"That was pretty hectic," Sergeant Rivernider said. "We ended up being short of supplies and had to go out and get what we needed quick to put them together."
One of the important functions of the kitchen is preparing in-flight meals for air crews who are in the air at meal time. Cold box lunches and hot food are available from a special menu. It may not be the ideal dining atmosphere at altitude in a KC-135, but having good eats aboard is always appreciated, said Sergeant Rivernider.
Senior Airman Kim Brenneman, like many of the staff members, transferred over from the dining facility. New blood means learning the way things are done in a different environment, but because the Flight Kitchen is closed on weekends, it also is a sort of "reward" for Airmen who were used to pulling the weekend shift at the dining facility.
After two months on the job, Airman Brenneman said "it's a nice change of pace; I like it here."
She also notes she is learning new skills, as things are done differently in this kitchen. She pointed out that it is a close-knit group that keeps close relationships with the customers.
"We are sort of known for being very friendly with the customers," said Sergeant Rivernider. The food may be fast but that should not be taken to mean greasy and fatty. Salads, baked potatoes, baked chicken breasts and a hot vegetable each day are part of the menu for those who would rather bypass the French fries, which are a favorite. Cold drinks of all varieties, bagged chips and candy also are available.
It's always busy at the Flight Kitchen, said Staff Sgt. Andre Ogalvie, who has been on staff for two years. "I love it."
But things can really heat up around CORONA and during other special events on base. While it's hard to say just whom for sure, the Flight Kitchen over the years likely has fed some high-flying VIPs and generals. Members of Central Command and Special Operations Command and their guests are frequent customers. Sergeant Rivernider said they may have even fed a few members of Air Force One.
Mary Bears manages the civilian employees of the Flight Kitchen and said the most outstanding part of the job is the people - both customers and fellow staff members.
"Everyone we work with is great, like a family, and the people who come here are, too," she said.