Sgt. Jacob Ballard has cooked meals for Marines across the world, but his assignment last week under the bright lights of television was a first.
The chef at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island appeared on the "Rachael Ray Show" for a Veterans Day cook-off. He represented the Marines, with four other chefs representing the other military branches.
"It was exciting and an honor to represent the Marine Corps," he said. "It was interesting to see how filming for TV worked, and it was great to meet a very influential food personality in Rachael."
A Marine for eight years, Ballard has been a chef at Parris Island since June. He flew to New York last week to film the Veterans Day segment, which was shot over two days.
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Ballard made pimento cheese fritters for Ray and Food Network personality Sunny Anderson, who gave out awards to each of the service members after the cook-off. Anderson, an Air Force veteran, gave Ballard the "Most Likely to Be Ripped Off By Me" award.
Ballard, a Rhode Island native, joked that he "had no business" entering the Southern dish, but he wanted to make something representative of the Beaufort area.
"Pimento cheese is near and dear to people here," he said. "It's a deep-rooted tradition. The Marine Corps offers you a chance to learn unique cultures, and I try to apply it to what I do."
However, the format of the cook-off -- a meal that could be prepared within 30 minutes -- narrowed those options. Ballard said he also considered shrimp and grits before going with the pimento cheese balls, which were a hit with Anderson.
"They're little cheese balls of goodness," Anderson said during the segment. "It was delicious."
Ballard was recommended as the Marine Corps representative for the show by the Parris Island public information office, after Ray's producers contacted the Los Angeles-area Marine Corps public information office.
"He's not just a great cook, he's such a great Marine," said Capt. Rachel Nolan, public affairs officer at Parris Island.
Ballard told family and friends he would be on the show, and news of his appearance soon spread on social media. Some of his friends from high school culinary class congratulated him and thanked him for his service, he said.
Although Ballard said in a taped interview he was nervous about appearing on TV, he didn't feel any jitters during the cooking segment. The experience was so enjoyable he said he'd do it again.
"I'd take any opportunity offered to me," he said. "I was thankful for being given this opportunity. It was a chance to spotlight the community and the Marine Corps."