Front­line food team

Townsville Bulletin - - DEFENDERS - RACHEL RI­LEY

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.

1 Cater­ing Com­pany Cater­ing Su­per­vi­sor, 10 FSB Cor­po­ral Nathan Judd with Lead­ing Air­craft­woman Leesa Les­meis­ter.

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