Submariner Chef Nathan Elson showing-off his skills in the kitchen; the HMNB Clyde Steward flambés a pair for desert; Chef Gary Mclean with fellow judge Petty Officer Stevie Stokoe;  the winning team with Captain Fi Shepherd who presented the awards and Gary Mclean, and The HMNB Clyde team celebrate their win.

By Gavin Carr

A TEAM of caterers from HM Naval Base Clyde have proved they are the crème-de-la-crème when they took the top spot at the Royal Navy’s version of Master Chef.

The Inter-Flotilla Cook and Serve Competition was held at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint, Cornwall, on February 6.  Competing were Royal Navy caterers from Clyde, Devonport and Portsmouth, going head-to-head to cook and serve a delicious three-course meal in front of a panel of expert judges.

The winning Clyde team, which included Royal Navy Submariner Chefs, cooked pollack with curried mussels to start, followed by a main-course of duck breast with roasted root vegetables and a tasty caramelised pear and Gorgonzola ice-cream desert to finish.

“The competition went really well,” said Chef (Submariner) Nathan Elson.  “As a team we were really confident.  I felt a little bit under pressure, but that’s what it’s all about, bringing us out of our comfort zone and encouraging us to use the different skills which we don’t normally use.”

The teams had just 75-minutes to cook and serve the courses for three diners, plus an additional plate for the judges.  Each team comprised of two Chefs and one front-of-house Steward who served the delicious dishes.

Among the judges was former MasterChef: The Professionals winner Gary Maclean who said: “For me I just love competitions.  I think it’s a really good way of bringing on young chefs.  I also think it shows another side to the Armed Services, they can come in and cook as well as chefs in civvy street.

“The standard was really high,” he continued.  “One of the teams was doing something I would be doing in competition; a lot of local produce and another with really classic skills.  Each dish was really different, but really good.”

Also on the judging panel was Chief Petty Officer Si Geldart of the Naval Services Culinary Arts Team and Petty Officer Stevie Stokoe, and instructor at the Defence Maritime Logistics School.  Retired Warrant Officer Gary Slater judged the front-of-house service.

“We were looking for natural flair, the use of seasonal food, showing off their ability both front-of-house and back-of-house,” explained CPO Geldart.

“We wanted to see knife skills and for the front-of-house we wanted to see them using flambé, how they interacted with guests and worked together as a team.”

Royal Navy Catering Services staff are required to cook for large numbers of people in challenging environments and also play a key role in defence engagement during visits to foreign ports. 

Submariner Chefs face challenges which have never experienced by their General Service counterparts.  Some submarines deploy and never surface until they return home – that means that a lot of planning goes into storing the ingredients, cooking meals, and serving hundreds of Submariners breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks each day for sometimes months at a time.

Competitors in the Inter-Flotilla Cook and Serve Competition may now go on to compete in the Naval Services Culinary Arts Team and in civilian competitions.  The ultimate goal is to get into the Combined Services Culinary Arts Team to compete on the world stage.



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