The Army’s best chefs have competed alongside Navy, Royal Air Force and MoD civilian caterers in the Armed Forces’ annual flagship catering competition at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham.
Across three days, each of the Services showcased their skills in a variety of classes and challenges including the Parade des Chefs where teams prepared and cooked a three-course fine dining meal for 80 guests and the Open Field Team Challenge where chefs in a basic field kitchen had to cook and serve a buffet lunch using only ration packs.
Warrant Officer Class One Darren Chambers, 167 Catering Support Regiment RLC, team captain in the Open Field Team Challenge said, “This competition is very pressurised but it’s all about organisation. When you’re in the kitchen it feels like you’re dancing, constantly moving around each other, all wanting to use the oven and stove tops at the same time, it’s madness but great fun. As long as you have a good action plan and the process of completing the mission comes together on time, it should be a success.”
The aim of Joint Caterer is to challenge chefs at the highest level to demonstrate the ways in which military caterers can support operations whilst joining their craft and skills. Judges drawn from civilian hospitality businesses and top-level hoteliers ensured that competitors worked to the high standards set by the wider catering industry.
Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Steve McGuinness, Army Team Manager explained, “This is a valuable opportunity for the Armed Forces caterers to show off their skills. Much of the Army chefs’ duties have changed within the units and a lot of what they do is provide a hot plate for a service provider. The contracts that are in place stipulate what is provided and there’s no flair in that, whereas when the chefs take part in Joint Caterer, most them will only have had a few weeks of practice and then they’ll be competing to produce a fantastic dish with the aim of wowing the judges.”
Although the competition is fierce, the rivalry is always friendly and, following the announcement that the RAF were this year’s overall winners Steve added, “The level of skill demonstrated has been outstanding this year given that all three Services are thin on the ground for competitors due to deployments and operational commitments. This hasn’t deterred the excitement or determination from those involved especially the chefs from the RAF, who were this year’s very worthy winners. We look forward to fighting for the title again in 2019!”