Photo Information

NEW YORK—Staff Sgt. Jesse Costa, (center) 1st Marine Corps District’s club manager, alongside other chefs prepares dishes at Club Space NYC, Sept. 18. Costa is on the path to becoming the only chef in his military occupational specialty. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Thomas)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Thomas

Machine Gunner Serves Up More Than Hot Brass

29 Sep 2014 | Lance Cpl. Brandon Thomas 1st Marine Corps District

Cooking for many people is just a means of survival, whether you are cooking at home preparing dinner or cooking up an MRE (meal ready to eat) in the field. For Staff Sgt. Jesse Costa it’s something more, it’s a passion; a passion discovered in the Marine Corps.

Today Costa finds himself cooking with Coast Guard veteran and Hell’s Kitchen participant Executive Chef Barret Beyer at Club Space NYC, a club in Uptown New York City. 

“Today’s event has possibly been the biggest event I’ve ever done that’s featured myself,” said Chef Beyer. “I’m glad we had Costa along with us. He’s a great guy with great character who’s ready to work and ready to learn. I like that.”

Costa, a native of Swansea, Mass., and a graduate of Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School, joined the Marine Corps in 2004. After attending five years of college for accounting and business, Costa decided he wanted more out of life.

“I always wanted to be a Marine,” said Costa, the club manager of Tun Tavern located in 1st Marine Corps District Headquarters. “I realized that business and accounting wasn’t as exciting as I thought it was.”

Costa attended recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. Following his graduation from recruit training, he attended the School of Infantry East.

“I ended up becoming a machine gunner,” said Costa.  “I was attached to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, in Camp Lejeune for four-and-a-half years and I loved it.”

Costa deployed twice with 1st Bn., 6th Marines. The first deployment was to Fallujah, Iraq, and the second was to Ramadi, Iraq.

“On my first deployment, I served as the battalion commander’s gunner, and on the second, I served as the battalion commander’s vehicle commander,” said Costa. “I loved that MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) because of the camaraderie.”

In 2009, Costa executed a lateral move and changed his MOS to Marine Corps Community Services.

“MCCS basically handles enlisted clubs, gyms, recreational events, retail services, and Marine and Family Services, said Capt. Francisco L. Pietri, the 1st MCD base operations officer. “Here at the 1st MCD MCCS includes Tun Tavern, our retail store and our diner.” 

“I was a grunt for five years,” said Costa. “I wanted to try something new. I heard about MCCS, researched it, applied and was approved.”

“When they sent me to the 1st Marine Corps District I didn’t know a thing about cooking,” said Costa. “I remember the first day I was there and they put me on the food line. I was really nervous. Everyone’s a chef at home, but when you have 20 people staring at you because you’re too slow it’s something else.

“As the months went by I got better.  I started cooking things from home and I started having fun with it. The command said ‘Maybe you should go to culinary school’ and I did. I’ve loved it ever since. It’s fun even though my days are long.”

Costa attended the Star Career Academy for culinary arts while working full time at 1st MCD; meaning whenever he went to class he had already worked at least nine hours earlier that day.  

“His presence is evident even in his staff,” said Herbert L. Booth, the logistics manager for the 1st MCD and a member of the 1st MCD family since 1990. “Since he’s been here the Tun Tavern staff has seemed more excited about their work.”

According to Pamela Fulton, a chef for the 1st MCD and a graduate of the Culinary Academy of Long Island, Costa is very hands on in the kitchen, a trait that not common in club managers.

“I’ve never had a boss like him,” said Fulton. “It’s great to have him here. He’s going through what I was going through when I was student, trying new dishes coming up with new ideas. Let’s just say two great minds think alike.”

Even Costa’s boss praises the performance of the soon to be chef.

“Costa is extremely motivated and receptive to requests,” said Pietri. “He’s always asking for feedback and seeking to improve.”

One of our leadership principles in the Marine Corps is to know yourself and to seek self-improvement. Costa exemplifies this in his personal and professional life.

“In my MOS there are only about 160 of us.” said Costa. There are cooks but no Chef’s so when I finish school I’ll be the only Chef in my MOS.”

Costa graduated from the Star Career Academy in July 2014 and is currently undergoing an internship to earn the title of chef.