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Army cooks put trainee chefs through their paces

Hospitality and Catering learners were given 90 minutes to create a three-course meal from Army ration packs at Coleg Llandrillo’s Orme View restaurant

Army chefs challenged catering students at Coleg Llandrillo to produce a three-course meal from military ration packs.

Chefs from 167 Catering Support Regiment Royal Logistical Corps (Army Reserve) visited the Orme View restaurant in Rhos-on-Sea, testing Level 1 Hospitality and Catering learners in a Masterchef-style task with a twist.

Lance Corporal Barry Sharp and Sergeant Jay Bartlett gave the students 90 minutes to create a starter, main and dessert from 10-man Army ration packs, which included ingredients such as cooked meats, sauces, potatoes, pasta, rice, vegetables and biscuits.

The learners were split into teams of six, with one from each group appointed as head chef. At various points in the process, teams were mixed up and head chefs swapped over - replicating conditions in the field when Army chefs have to adapt at short notice.

The dishes they served up were then judged on taste, texture, appearance and originality by the Army chefs and the college’s catering lecturers.

Students created delicious dishes including butternut squash curry, corned beef hash, onion fritters, several flavours of soup, choux pastry, shortbread biscuits and a chocolate and orange tart.

One team even made a cheesecake using tinned cheese instead of cream cheese - which earned a handshake from Lance Corporal Sharp and was voted joint best dessert along with a bread-and-butter pudding.

Sgt Bartlett said: “The students were given 10-man Army ration packs, which feed 10 people for a 24-hour period. They were tasked with making two portions of starter, two portions of main course and two portions of dessert in the time period.

“We broke everyone down into groups, and not necessarily with their friends, to get them out of their comfort zone.

“Ideally each person is given a job doing one of the dishes, but they also need an understanding of what the other dishes are, because Lance Corporal Sharp throws little bits into the scenario by taking people away from the team, which potentially does happen in the Army.

“It gives the students experience, including working in a team, and hopefully at the end of it they’ve learned something and had some fun.”

The day was a success, with students enjoying the challenge and at least one applying to join the Army.

Jamie Heaney said: “It was amazing. It was like being on a gameshow - you’re getting pulled out of kitchens, swapped around, having to use only ration packs.

“I enjoyed being put in groups with people I hadn’t worked with before - it was nice to be able to learn new skills from each other.”

Kim Protheroe said: “It stretched your creativity, and I liked the element where the head chefs were getting stolen every so often to throw us into a random challenge. It was so funny to see if you’d get thrown off doing one of those challenges.”

Jamie Budgen said: “I enjoyed getting swapped in and out of the kitchens, and having to figure out what you need to do when you don’t know what’s gone on already in that kitchen.”

Andrew Ash said: “It was like the challenges on Masterchef where you get a mystery box and you don’t know what’s going to be in it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something like this.”

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