November 13th 2020


Desserts being prepared

Desserts being prepared for the competition

A splash of pride and sprinkling of rivalry was on the menu for Army chefs when they competed in a culinary competition.

The challenge for the Army chefs was to cook and serve a two-course meal for four diners in just 90 minutes, whilst also impressing judge Mike Robinson.

Mike is one of the UK’s most respected game chefs. He is the owner of three restaurants specialising in wild game, including the elegant The Elder restaurant in Bath. Mike has made dozens of TV appearances and written numerous successful cookbooks.

Chef demonstrating venison butchery

Mike demonstrating how to butcher venison

The two-man teams were representing 103 Battalion REME based in the East of England and London, and 101 Battalion REME based in West of England and Wales. They were required to produce a main course that included a haunch of venison provided by Mike from his own estate. It had to have a potato and seasonal vegetable accompaniment.

The dessert had to be British with seasonal fruits containing at least two ingredients chosen from apples, blackberries, figs, grapes, pears, plums, quince and raspberries.

As the Army chefs watched the clock, they were closely observed by Mike. He was judging them on their organisation, teamwork, presentation and most importantly, the flavour and quality of the dishes they cooked.

Held at Keynsham Army Reserve Centre, Mike also found time to give a master class in preparing venison haunch.

He said: “It’s been a great day, the guys have been amazing, and I’ve been thoroughly impressed by their skill and dedication. They have produced some great tasting food that was of a really high standard. I would have happily paid the money to eat it in a gastropub or restaurant.”

Army chefs love the thrill of competition

Army chefs taking instruction

Chefs preparing for the competition

Although the competition was keenly fought, Sergeant Alex Sabin-Staines and Private John Benton from 101 Battalion REME were named overall winners.

Sergeant Alex Sabin-Staines was a Regular Army chef for 13 years prior to joining the Reserves five years ago.  He said: “Competition is the backbone of the military; we thrive on pressure. Cooking the venison, especially when I hadn’t cooked it before added an element of pressure, but Mike willingly shared his knowledge.  He was a fantastic judge.

“It’s been an enjoyable experience. I’ve had the opportunity to showcase some of my skills that I don’t use as often as I used to and I’m looking forward to doing it again.”

Private John Benton (24) cooked the winning desserts including toffee apple crumble, a raspberry souffle and apple rose tart and added: “It was a good experience, I was proud to represent the Battalion. I hope to do it again. I enjoy cooking puddings; my favourite today was the apple rose tart. It looked the best on the serving plate.”

If you want to learn more about being a chef in the Army, find out more.

“Competition is the backbone of the military; we thrive on pressure." Sergeant Alex Sabin-Staines