How A 240-Year-Old Brand Celebrates Its Birthday

November 10, 2015
By: Erik Passikoff, Media Post

Tomorrow is Veterans Day -- a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. We salute them all. But today belongs to the United States Marines, on the 240th birthday of the Corps. 

Marine Corps birthday celebrations have both a history and a tradition, with a cake-cutting ceremony that would put your usual event marketers to shame. For this, a commanding officer cuts the cake with a Mameluke, a scimitar-like sword. The first piece goes to the oldest Marine present, then to the youngest. During the annual birthday celebration, Order No. 47 is read, which says in part, “it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.” 

Traditionally, but unofficially, Marines meet up on Nov. 10 to share a birthday meal or drink, with some celebrations a bit more expansive than others. Take, for example, chef and restaurateur John Besh, a Marine who served in Desert Storm. 

He and his fellow Marines found talking about real food more satisfying than eating their MREs (Meals Ready to Eat, which are self-contained, individual food rations Marines use in combat areas where cooking facilities are not available. Older Marines will know them as K-RATS and I can assure you haute cuisine they are not!).

His experience — and an adaptation to civilian life of small-unit Marine tactics — ultimately led to a large chain of 12 restaurants. And a coveted James Beard Award, and four cookbooks. Oh, and his small division, fire team, take-the-hill Marine training led to his setting up soup kitchens in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina when they were needed most. The leadership that is borne in every Marine led to the creation of the John Besh Foundation, which protects and preserve the culinary heritage and indigenous foods of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region through culinary scholarships and micro loans. Oorah!

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