Devonport Royal Navy chefs and stewards go head-to-head

A team from HMS Portland took the top prize in a Master Chef type competition which saw chefs and stewards from Devonport based ships go head-to-head in the kitchen.

Eight teams representing seven units took part in the annual Devonport Flotilla Cook and Serve competition, held at the Defence Maritime Logistics School, within HMS Raleigh. 

The competition aims to develop the imagination and innovation of junior members of the logistics branch and introduce them to the high pressure arena of competition catering.

Each team consisted of two chefs and one steward, who were challenged to cook and serve a three course meal for two diners in just 80 minutes, while also impressing a panel of judges.

Some of the young competitors really stood out as they have not long left basic training, and have produced an excellent service and very skilled dishes.

Mr Gary Slater

HMS Portland’s winning team served up a starter of pan seared cod fillet, on pickled red cabbage, alongside king prawn tortellini, dressed with a lemon and dill foam. 

The main course consisted of de-constructed duck wellington, pressed Boulanger potatoes, Irish cabbage and roasted carrots with a port and plum reduction.  

For dessert the team produced a salted caramel chocolate fondant with mint chocolate ice-cream.

Judges awarded HMS Portland’s team silver medals and Best in Class certificates.  Chef Carl Tester and first time competitor Chef Mark Fenn were responsible for the winning meal, while Steward Emma Lambon made sure the front of house service was up to scratch.

Chef Tester said “We are used to cooking for 200 plus people on HMS Portland.  We’ve just come back from a long deployment, so going from that to cooking four covers of a different calibre of food took us a day to get our heads round.

“Having cooked different elements of the dishes in the past on deployment we used one of them today.  Working together and discussing different elements, that’s how we came up with our winning menu.”

Having competed last year Chef Tester added: “This year I was determined to do better, I would love to do Exercise Joint Caterer, the annual tri-Service competition, if the ship programme lets me.”

The judges included Mr Gary Slater, a former Royal Navy Warrant Officer who now works at HMS Raleigh for ESS, a division of Compass Group.  He said: “I thought the standard was good and what the teams have done has exceeded their own expectations. 

“They were all very nervous but they’ve come up to the mark and represented themselves and the units they are from to their credit. Some of the young competitors really stood out as they have not long left basic training, and have produced an excellent service and very skilled dishes.

“As a judge for front-of-house I look for smart and good interaction with the guests and clients, with the Steward putting everything they’ve been taught into practice and having a full understanding of what is required of them.”   

Also judging was Petty Officer James Cox, an instructor at the DMLS Cookery School.  He said: “The standard has been high considering the experience of the chefs. Some of them have not long been out of basic training.

“The teams are a lot more organised this year and are working a lot better as a team, which is what you ‘d expect to see in the competition. As a judge I look at the standard of the food, food hygiene, the way the chefs’ work around the kitchen and the quality of the food before it gets sent out to the customers.”

This was the fifth year that the competition has taken place. 

Chief Petty Officer Jason Bignell, who works as part of the Devonport Flotilla, was one of the organisers.  He said:  “This competition aims to promote competition cooking and gives the chefs and stewards a chance to do something they enjoy; cooking fancier food for small numbers. 

“We have a lot of junior teams enter this year and there is some decent food on display.  The front of house team has worked well. 

“Although they have less experience they’ve benefited from a lot of mentoring from the instructors. Fine dining like this would be used on board ships for VIP receptions or dinners in the Wardroom. 

“The Royal Navy plays a role in Defence diplomacy engaging with different countries around the world.   This means we can invite people onto our ships, to cater for their different needs and show off what we and the wider UK can do.”