Painting by Don Troiani of Col. Cleveland, revolutionary war hero

Spending the night in the Colonel Cleveland Room at the Inn of the Patriots in Grover, North Carolina is a special treat for many reasons. The first being that the B&B is owned and operated by Martin and Storm Mongiello, who are U.S. Navy veterans with distinguished military service. Martin has called on this military training and history, which spans from serving on nuclear submarines such as the USS Sunfish SSN 649, USS Lapon SSN 661, the USS Asheville SSN 758 and others.

Martin’s time at the military’s Hotel Management School would open his eyes to a new world of opportunities of which he first practiced at the 1,500-room Bay Shores Resort in Pensacola, Florida. This was great training that became invaluable in cooking for scores of people in a variety of situations.

There is little doubt that this training served him well with his next assignment on the USS Lapon and then on to the USS Asheville, where he served under commanding officer Patrick J. Casey who would eventually write the letter of recommendation for Martin to serve in the White House Military Office.

In one of Martin’s stories, he told me about the pressures of serving underwater for months at a time. It’s not easy, but you learn how to deal with things, and you find out how to get the best out of people. He also said fresh fruit is only fresh for a week or so and then as a cook, you must get creative. But when you serve on a nuclear submarine you also have to know how to do everything else as well, just in case you have to do it. So, if you are the cook, you have to know how to make good food, you also have to be trained on everything from engine repair to navigation. I ask Martin if the engine guys had to be trained as a cook, he laughed and said, “No, I had not thought of that before. One thing is for sure, you learn the value of oxygen and teaming. You need air, and you need each other to make it all work.”

With Martin’s background and the ability to pass the highest of security clearances he found himself serving the White House Military Office at Camp David as the Chef, butler, and valet for the president of the United States and first Family. Martin would also work state dinners at the White House, this time of service indeed provided more than a glimpse into the workings of the most powerful office in the world.

Visiting with Martin for story time is fascinating. His time with the White House Military Office was not his last stop, from there he went on to serve two tours in South West Asia including Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Today Martin’s talents are at work at the Inn of the Patriots and other endeavors that support the training and preparation for great chefs and butlers who serve prominent folks around the world. I get a call now and then with an invitation to come for the evening to meet an interesting author or just to learn more about our American history.

On this visit, my room is named after Revolutionary War hero Col. Benjamin Cleveland, who I first met in history when doing a story in Wilkes County, North Carolina, and then a few years later I came across him again when working on a story on the Battle of Kings Mountain. Col. Cleveland leads a militia from Wilkes County to fight at the Battle of Kings Mountain, and it would be Col. Cleveland that would take the prized white horse of British Maj. Patrick Ferguson. We will talk more about that in another story.

I love learning about our history and especially from people who are personally connected and a visit to the Inn of the Patriots in Grover and a conversation with Martin certainly qualifies. He’s simply not your average chef.

Carl White is the executive producer and host of the award winning syndicated TV show “Carl White’s Life In the Carolinas.” The weekly show is in its seventh year of syndication and can be seen in the Greenville, Spartanburg viewing market on WLOS ABC 5 a.m. Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. Sundays at WMYA My 40. Visit www.lifeinthecarolinas.com, email White at Carl@lifeinthecarolinas.com.