Dinner For Four Thousand?

For David O'Malley as with hundreds and thousands of others who know their way around a kitchen, cooking is a second-nature activity that you do between one and three times a day. The difference between O'Malley and the rest of us is that most of us aren't cooking for 4,500 hungry members of the Armed Services.

Cooking for such a large number of people every day would drive most chefs off the edge, but not O'Malley. As the Midshipmen Food Services Director at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, a post he's held for the past two years —O'Malley spent eight years in the same capacity at the US Air Force Academy, and he has 35 years of experience working in kitchens, "mostly in the military" — he's accustomed to prepping enough food for 4,500 18-22-year-olds in the prime of their lives three times each day, seven days each week. And what's coming out of the galleys isn't exactly prison fare: The Naval Academy Midshipmen eat well, and they eat a lot. Here's a By The Numbers look at the scope of scale effective within King Hall, land of nearly 100,000 meals every week:

84 – Cooks preparing each meal in the King Hall galley

105 – Contracted employees needed to operate the serving and bussing duties in King Hall

13,000 – Meals prepared and served each day

3,000 – Burgers that the King Hall galley's two broilers can cook in one hour

2,000 – Pounds of shrimp the King Hall galley's two conveyor-belt deep fryers can cook in one hour

80 – Roasting pans that can fit into the King Hall galley's two ovens

750 – Gallons of soup O'Malley can heat on his six steam-jacketed kettles

4,000 – Approximate number of calories in each consumed meal

1,000 – Gallons of milk consumed by Midshipmen during each breakfast

4,000 – Pounds of meat consumed by Midshipmen during each dinner

1,200 – Loaves of bread consumed by Midshipmen at every sandwich-based lunch

40,000 – Dishes to be washed after every meal

The entire meal, from preparation to cleanup, is a five-hour process, says O'Malley.

As for the menu, daily offerings are usually pretty akin to mama's cooking back home: chicken pasta primavera for dinner; club sandwiches for lunch; waffles and scrambled eggs for breakfast. In true Academy form, each meal is itemized down to the minutest detail. If sour cream's going on the table, it's on the menu. If the cheddar cheese is going to be shredded, that's specified. Midshipmen won't see the same meal twice in six weeks, with one notable exception: fried buffalo chicken shows up twice.

Why the buffalo chicken? The short-winded O'Malley briefly chuckles. "That's just what they like." The Naval Academy: Forever fixed on the concept of service.