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Shanty chefs treats sailors to gourmet grub

Navy dive candidates Jim Bauer Cody Page have dinner based The Shanty restaurant menu galley Naval StatiGreLakes Wednesday Feb. 6

Navy dive candidates Jim Bauer and Cody Page have a dinner based on The Shanty restaurant menu in the galley at Naval Station Great Lakes on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 9, 2013 2:22AM

GREAT LAKES — After a day of dive school at Training Support Center Great Lakes, Jeff Bauer and Cody Page wouldn’t normally dine at Galley 535 on whiskey cream-sauce shrimp, rum-soaked pork chops and filet mignon topped with lobster.

“Usually, it’s sporty (food), like chicken nuggets, burgers, hot dogs,” Bauer said Wednesday night after polishing off a pork chop topped with chilled mango salsa. “I don’t really eat here that much. I usually eat at the main deck.”

But the two Florida natives said they were drawn in by a special event — “Dinner with Dimitri,” or, as signs posted all over Galley 535 informed TSC students: “We’re Bringing the Shanty to You.”

The process of bringing signature entrees from the Wadsworth eatery to a mass-production operation like a Navy galley was not without its unique challenges, but the event’s namesake chef, Dimitri Kallianis, said it was simply a matter of preparation and persistence.

“I got here (Tuesday) and we’ve been cooking for two days,” said Kallianis, who prepared items alongside about 30 Galley 535 regulars and his head chef at the Shanty, Jeff Trowbridge. “The challenge that I have is my time — I’m very, extremely hands-on, so I don’t sleep very often. ... I got here at 6 (a.m.), I left here late — I actually haven’t slept in two days.”

But Kallianis added that he enjoys cooking at Great Lakes so much that Wednesday marked his third visit in three years, having participated in two Great American Barbecues with the America’s Chefs project.

“The thing with this base is that they’re really thinking outside the box (about) what is best for the troops,” said Kallianis, who donates his time for the events. “And I think it’s very important, especially for the local community, to be involved with charities and getting the community involved.”

Troy Konz — director of food service operations for Goodwill, contractor for the dozen galleys at Great Lakes — said his cooks and servers rise to the occasion for special events like Wednesday’s fine-dining project.

An hour into the event, with racks of chops heating up, Michael Veal of Waukegan and Latasha Johnson of Racine, Wis., were among those working elbow-to-elbow with Kallianis applying the Jack Daniel’s-based sauce and sauteed vegetables to the jumbo shrimp.

“Every couple of months we try to do something different, like work with a celebrity chef,” said Konz. “It’s food the staff has not prepared before, so they actually look forward to it.”

The logistics involved in crafting a specialty menu for the 3,500 students currently enrolled in TSC programs started taking shape in late January, according to Dennis Eis of Reinhardt Food Service, which supplies the raw materials for the feast.

“We started about two weeks beforehand, when we sit down and figure out what they’ll eat and how much they’ll eat,” said Eis.

The verdict in this case included 2,500 pork chops, 2,500 steaks and 350 pounds of shrimp. The bill of fare also included garlic mashed potatoes, tomato basil soup, pretzel bread and a cheesecake dessert bar.

Kallianis pointed out that the selections are all prepared in a health-conscious way, using his family’s imported Lonely Olive Tree olive oil rather than butter.

As both TSC students and such notables as Capt. Randall J. Lynch, commanding officer of Great Lakes, lined up to sample the results, Konz said the station will welcome back “six or seven” America’s Chefs this summer for a return engagement of their Great American Barbecue, which visited the base in 2010 and 2011.

Along with Kallianis — who linked up with the project after Guy Fieri featured The Shanty on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” — the likely candidates include Rich “Gorilla” Bacchi from California’s Gorilla Barbecue and Mike “Bossman” Hardin from Hodad’s burgers in San Diego.

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