Sometimes you just don’t feel like cooking, but that’s not an option for the Army catering team from the 10th Force Support Battalion who provided meals for up to 600 soldiers every day during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023 at Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
CAPTION: Australian Army cook Corporal Samantha Kenafake, of 10th Force Support Battalion, prepares pizza for soldiers at Camp Growl, Shoalwater Bay Training Area, during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023. Story by Captain Diana Jennings. Photos by Sergeant Sagi Biderman.
From loading the equipment onto trucks, transporting it, setting up the kitchen and preparing meals, Corporal Lais Pereira said behind the scenes of a field kitchen was where the real work happened.
“People might not realise we move every single bit of equipment; the entire kitchen has been packed on the back of a truck, which we drive ourselves, and then offload with or without the help of a forklift,” Corporal Pereira said.
“We set up the kitchen, and if there’s no plumbing, we also set up the water systems; and with a team of only five people we can produce around 300 meals.”
Proving teamwork makes the dream work, Corporal Pereira said despite having little to no experience working together, the mixed team from Enoggera’s 2nd Platoon and RAAF Base Amberley’s 4th Platoon operated like a well-oiled machine.
“It’s a big thing when you can jump into a new group and it just flows; regardless of the volume of jobs, we get it done and morale is high,” Corporal Pereira said.
CAPTION: Australian Army cook Lance Corporal Lais Pereira, of 10th Force Support Battalion, prepares meals for soldiers during Exercise Talisman Sabre.
Job satisfaction for the catering team comes daily as the morning, afternoon and night-shift teams complete their mission and prepare to do it all over again the nest day.
“The feeling when you’re on the last hotbox, number 510, you don’t need words, it’s just that two seconds when we cross eyes, and we know we’ve done a good job,” Corporal Pereira said.
Exercise Talisman Sabre offered another unique experience for the cooks as they not only catered for huge numbers, but also for soldiers from across the globe and VIPs.
“I like cooking for the international soldiers because they come here with a different expectation and when they taste our food it kind of blows their mind,” Corporal Pereira said.
“We get comments like, ‘Wow, this is what you guys eat, you actually make real fresh food’.
“They really enjoy some of the foods that we overlook, like having lamb and beef, that is very popular with the international soldiers.”
Army cook Private Leon Miller said putting his skills to the test in the field was the best part of the job.
“I’d prefer to be working out field at least 90 per cent of the year because in the field I get to use my trade every day and learn from my corporals or just from my own mistakes,” Private Miller said.
After all, it was the allure of culinary experience mixed with an active lifestyle that drew Private Miller to enlist as an Army cook, and he hasn’t looked back.
“I thought, ‘What’s the best way to be fit? And be a chef?’ So I joined the Army,” he said.
“It sounds cliché, but every day is pretty rewarding because as soon as you step out of the kitchen you feel a wave if accomplishment.”
CAPTION: Army cook Private Leon Miller, of 10th Force Support Battalion, prepares meals for soldiers during Exercise Talisman Sabre.