National security wonks this week are wondering: Which U.S. spooks in Northern Virginia put out a classified ad seeking a chef with a Top Secret security clearance? Two things are known: The hiring agency runs the CIA's cafeteria, and CIA workers don't think much of their cafeteria.
Food contractor Sodexo recently posted a job advertisement seeking an executive chef for a top government agency, but specified that applicants must be able to obtain a top-secret government clearance.
"Sodexo's Government Services Division is seeking a strong Executive Chef to manage all the culinary operations at a high profile government dining account in Northern Virginia," the company said. "The successful candidate must be able to obtain a TS [top secret]/SCI [sensitive compartmented information] clearance."
As government and military types will tell you, a TS/SCI clearance is no joke—a prerequisite for working with critical intelligence, a career-making credential earned through years of work and the endurance of deep background investigations. (On the other hand, an estimated 1.4 million Americans, half a million of them contractors, hold some kind of Top Secret clearance; Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden both got them relatively quickly, so big grain of salt there.)
Now, the job listing doesn't specify what agency needs a chef; it lists the work as being in Herndon, Virginia, which is not the home of the CIA's vaunted headquarters; that's in Langley. But: There's that other supposed CIA building, built around the same time as the nearby National Counterterrorism Center. The address: 499 Grove Street, Herndon.
Why would our clandestine operators and analysis need a secret-keeping chef? Because the food is really not good. We know this thanks to a series of FOIAs filed in recent years for the CIA's cafeteria comment cards and customer emails. We know, for example:
The new breakfast "kilbasa" is really flavorless:
The quarter-chicken platter is really more of a 3/8 chicken platter:
The Russian-themed meal is just culturally offensive:
The burger-flippers are surly:
This Subway sandwich bread sucks:
And there are NO GRAPES in the Jazz Salad.
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