July 24th 2014


From fine dining to cooking in the field, Army chefs have shown off their skills at a catering competition.

Army chefs show off their skills

Over 80 of the Army’s top chefs, both Regular and Reservists, took part in Exercise Army Sustainer at Prince William of Gloucester Barracks in Grantham on Saturday (19 July). In the heat of the competition kitchen, the six categories covered both operational and formal cooking and tested the soldiers’ creativity, adaptability and timings.

An improvised field catering challenge saw teams of three chefs tasked to cook a two-course meal for 20 soldiers using ingredients from operational ration packs, but only after they had built a stove from materials such as an empty metal drum, a metal grid and bricks.

A team of reservists from Grantham-based 167 Catering Support Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps served up beef balti or spicy ham pasties followed by bread pudding or fruit strudel within the three hour time limit.

Sergeant Viv Gritton, an ex-Regular who works as a head chef at Durham University, said: “We were given the box of ingredients and then just had to crack on with planning a menu and building a kitchen. It’s about drawing on our experience and skills as chefs to do the best that you that you can and it’s been an emotional few hours!”

The competition gave the chefs a chance to show off their skillsMore refined cuisine was produced from a VIP challenge, which saw chefs challenged to produce a three course meal for six dignitaries from a field kitchen. The team from Catterick-based 5th Regiment Royal Artillery served up a sweet chilli prawn salad, chicken chasseur with roasted garlic mash and broccoli mornay, and a chocolate-orange bread and butter pudding.

Lance Corporal Luke Smith, 28 from Grimsby, said:  “I’ve cooked for 50 soldiers from a kitchen like this in Afghanistan, but VIP catering is very different and this gives us an opportunity to push the boat out and show what we are capable of.

“The competition has been a good experience; it’s a good test of our skills and a chance to mix with other chefs and see how they work.”

The competition was hosted by 167 Catering Support Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps. The Reserve unit is the Army’s only dedicated catering regiment and provides trained chefs to support units on operations and exercises.

Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Ian Skipper said: “Food is a vital part of military capability, both in the simple terms of giving our soldiers the fuel they need to operate and in maintaining morale. This competition is the first time we have had reservists and regulars competing against each other, demonstrating the closer working relationships we are building as the structure of the Army changes.

“All our chefs are trained from scratch and this competition shows the breadth and standard of skills they have. The same soldiers can deliver mass catering in the harsh environment of operations and also produce food worthy of a high class restaurant.”