Frontline food team
WHAT does it take to feed an Army?
The Townsville Bulletin went inside one of the busiest mess kitchens during Exercise Talisman Sabre at the Williamson Airfield in Shoalwater Bay Training to find out.
For 1600 people, including many from Townsville 5th Aviation Regiment, who were lucky enough to avoid ration packs and receive three fresh and hot meals a day it took 28 kitchen staff and about 400kg of meat per meal.
Six personnel worked from 4am to 6pm followed by another 12 from 6pm to 4am to keep the kitchen running around the clock to make sure there were no skipped meals.
The kitchen staff were aged from 19 into their 50s.
The meals, including steaks, casseroles, curries and pasta, have to cater to dietary requirements including vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, Hindi and Halal as well as for those with specific allergies.
1 Catering Company Catering Supervisor Corporal Nathan Judd of the 10th Force Support Battalion said there was a simple art to cooking goodquality food in bulk.
“Anything you can go out and buy in a restaurant we can cook out here and send out to the troops,” he said.
“When you increase the meat and liquid, you have to increase the volume of the flavours, so it’s exactly the same as cooking at home except you increase everything by 100.
“Ninety to 95 per cent of our produce was coming from the Rockhampton district.”
Cpl Judd said there was only a two- hour window between when the food was cooked, placed into containers and transported before it must be eaten to avoid a mass food poisoning outbreak.
“We always have the saying that the Army marches on its stomach,” he said.
“We work under really tight health and safety standards because of the harsh environment we work in so we need to keep our kitchens clean like a hospital.”
Cpl Judd said the nature of the job meant mess cooks were on the most popular people on exercise.
“A lot of people do come and thank us but we do get our food critics and we do offer them a chance to come and work here but they never do,” he joked.
For those not lucky enough to eat hot meals, the Townsville Bulletin got some top advice on how to make the most our of the ration packs from making Carbonara, to Turkish delight.