Roasted garlic pulp oozed as Private Zinnia Knight, from the field kitchen at Townsville Field Training Area (TFTA), crumpled its crispy skin.
CAPTION: Australian Army cook Private Lehi Basa cooks a batch of pilaf rice to feed the Australian and international forces at Townsville Field Training Area during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023. Story and photos by Corporal Julia Whitwell.
“Sure, we could just use raw garlic, but when it’s roasted all the flavours come out, they caramelise and sweeten, and whatever we’re cooking with it just tastes better,” she said.
Preparing meals for personnel from the multinational forces while on Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023, Private Knight recalled how she found her passion for food.
“I was rolling gnocchi from the age of four, sat round the table with my aunties and Nonna, all talking and laughing together,” Privater Knight said.
“To me it’s about family and it’s a way of looking after one another.”
Private Knight is one of 11 at TFTA – Main and, with other field kitchens at Camp Star and Ingham, the catering team has been providing meals for up to 2200 personnel each day.
The cooks start their day at 4.30am to turn on all the stoves and equipment, cook breakfast, serve up by 6.30am, package hot-boxes, then eat last before packing down and starting on lunch prep.
By the time they’ve finished the dinner service and then breakfast prep for the next day, they usually don’t leave the kitchen tent until 8pm.
CAPTION: Australian Army chef Sergeant Darren Moss serves dinner to Australian and international forces at the Townsville Field Training Area mess during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023.
Heading the kitchen, Sergeant Darren Moss said some of his team had rolled from five weeks of field for Exercise Diamond Strike straight into Talisman Sabre for another four weeks.
“I’m really impressed by my team here, especially by their sustained enthusiasm,” Sergeant Moss said.
He also said the quality of food being produced in field kitchens had improved markedly over recent years, which he credited to the cooks’ professionalism and passion.
“Our cooks are constantly bettering themselves, embracing more in-depth culinary techniques and providing a broader range of meals than in years gone by,” he said.
“They’re a talented bunch, and far better at their trade than I was at that stage of my career; they do the Corps very proud.”