FANCY TOUCHES: Pte Ronald Thorold turns his hand to make fancy garnishes that will give an attractive highlight to many of the meals.
FANCY TOUCHES: Pte Ronald Thorold turns his hand to make fancy garnishes that will give an attractive highlight to many of the meals. Allan Reinikka

Busy cooks keep soldiers fuelled

ARMED with a potato peeler, Private John Hansen was ready for his 12-hour shift in the trenches yesterday.

John is one of the 70 kitchen hands at Camp Rocky, where more than 3000 meals are prepared for hungry troops each day.

With some 1000kg of potatoes on the menu, it was set to be a tough shift for the Aussie soldier.

While it’s not quite Masterchef, none of the troops are complaining.

More than 30,000 soldiers are taking part in Talisman Sabre, a joint military exercise between the US and Australia.

Much of the action is taking place at Shoalwater Bay, with many troops coming and going from Camp Rocky, in Rockhampton.

John is part of the kitchen team serving under Catering Lieutenant Quentin Dalziell at Camp Rocky.

Lt Dalziell said the kitchen had a line of hungry soldiers no less than 400m long at every meal time. And that’s on a quiet day.

The kitchen is made up of defence personnel from units all over Australia and for many it is their first time participating in an exercise of this size.

“Many of the cooks here have the mentality of only feeding a couple of hundred soldiers. To then jump to a few thousand is a huge, tectonic shift in their learning,” Lt Dalziell said.

All the food is cooked fresh and sourced locally.

Lt Dalziell said he could not speak more highly of the quality of Rockhampton beef and he said it was great to be supporting local businesses.

The skills of the kitchen personnel are clearly reflected in the food with one soldier writing in the comment book that he was accepting applications from the cooks to “replace his mum”.

“Our main mission is to change the age-old view of army cooks as just fitters and turners and to have them respected as more professional,” said Lt Dalziell.

He is expecting the kitchen to prepare more than 9000 meals this Saturday.