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The Master of Mil­i­tary Meals

Food cooked with your own hand is said to be one of one of the great­est gifts you can give to those you love, even for a sol­dier. But the ones Lance Cor­po­ral Jope Ro­tavi­soro loves best will have to wait a lit­tle while for a taste of his home cook­ing. Chef Ro­tavi­soro, 25, from Nako­ro­sule, Waimaro in Naitasiri , is a mil­i­tary chef with the Repub­lic of Fiji Mil­i­tary Forces He is one of 54 men de­ployed to Ro­tuma a few weeks ago for 13 months. He was brought up by his sin­gle mother un­til she mar­ried again and he be­came the el­dest of six chil­dren. Those early years with his mum orig­i­nally trig­gered his love of cook­ing. “Af­ter my par­ents sep­a­rated, I spent a lot of time help­ing my mother out at home and cook­ing was one of my favourite jobs,” he said. “I used to watch her and I guess I picked up some of her traits in the kitchen that I now ap­ply in my work. No-one is born a great cook but one learns by do­ing and I am still learn­ing – ev­ery day.” Ro­tavi­soro at­tended Nasautoka District Pri­mary and Wainibuka Sec­ondary schools, later fol­low­ing his pas­sion for cook­ing at Ser­vice Pro, a lo­cal hos­pi­tal­ity school. “I ended up in the mil­i­tary be­cause I did most of my prac­ti­cal cour­ses in camp and I was lucky they took me in.” Ro­tavi­soro has been a chef with the RFMF’s Lo­gis­tic Sup­port Unit (LSU) for the past five years. He was cho­sen for de­ploy­ment to Ro­tuma with the Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Squadron of the En­gi­neer Reg­i­ment. “Cook­ing for 53 peo­ple is a small num­ber for me, I have catered for 200 peo­ple in camp and once for 600 peo­ple at a pri­vate func­tion.” Life as a chef in the mil­i­tary has its chal­lenges, how­ever, es­pe­cially at times when ra­tions run out and Ro­tavi­soro has to find ways and means to cook for his hun­gry troops. “But my broth­ers here are very re­silient

peo­ple, I know if there comes a day in Ro­tuma when we run out, we will es­cape to the sea to fish – and there are abun­dant root crops here that I be­lieve lo­cals will be happy to sup­ply us with.” He said some of the men come into the kitchen to help him chop veg­eta­bles and other in­gre­di­ents, which light­ens his work­load.Yet Ro­tavi­soro is the first one to wake up and last one to sleep be­cause he has to pre­pare the first and last meals of the day. “And yes, I am the last to eat at meal times.” New­ly­wed Ro­tavi­soro has left be­hind in Fiji his wife, Sere­ana Nuku, eight months preg­nant with their first child.. “We don’t know yet if it is a boy or girl but are happy with what­ever God blesses us with.” He would “give an arm or a leg to be able to wit­ness the birth of my first child”. But if his com­rades have made the sac­ri­fice to be de­ployed far from home, he feels he can do the same. “I am grate­ful I have a very un­der­stand­ing and car­ing wife in Sere­ana. Be­fore I left she as­sured me not to worry

Lance Cor­po­ral Jope Ro­tavi­soro in his area of work.

Lance Cor­po­ral Jope Ro­tavi­soro (in green tshirt) with his com­rades in Ro­tuma.

Hun­gry troops en­joy their first meal of the day in Ro­tuma be­fore they start a hard day’s work.

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