In the sizzling world of culinary prowess, where creativity meets precision, a gastronomic showdown unfolded between chefs of 10th Force Support Battalion during Exercise Golden Plate 23 at Gallipoli Barracks in October.
CAPTION: An Australian Army soldier competes in Exercise Golden Plate at Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera, Queensland. Story by Ellijahna Victoria. Photos by Sergeant Jason Slape.
In its third year, the exercise involves individual catering platoons selecting five chefs to compete in a kitchen battle to see which Australian Army Catering Corps chefs excel in their trade. Throwing their chefs’ hats in the ring for the first time this year were caterers from the New Zealand Army.
Golden Plate 23 pushed the boundaries of culinary combat, with the six teams engaged in fierce battles, including mystery-box challenges, hot-box showdowns and a fine-dining extravaganza.
Corporal Samantha Kenafake emerged victorious in the individual competition with a winning trio of squid-ink pasta with glazed lobster tail, wagyu filet mignon with potato puree, asparagus and fennel leaf, and a zesty lemon-meringue tart with raspberry coulis swirl.
CAPTION: Winning dishes of the individual competition included squid-ink pasta with glazed lobster tail and wagyu filet mignon with potato puree, asparagus and fennel leaf.
“I had seen some of the other guys’ meals being produced and one of them in particular, he ended up coming third. I thought he was in a really good position to win because of what his dishes were looking like when it came to presentation,” Corporal Kenafake said.
“I was more shocked than anything when they just called my name as the winner.”
Commanding Officer 10th Force Support Battalion Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Hawley, a seasoned judge, marvelled at the creativity emanating from field kitchens, proving that these culinary masters could seamlessly transition from bulk cooking to fine dining.
“I’m always impressed with how the guys can take some fairly basic ingredients, put in some culinary skills and techniques and produce exceptional food,” Lieutenant Colonel Hawley said.
“We’re talking restaurant-quality, produced in a field kitchen – tents, not inside a building. Just shows that they can do everything from that.”
But the competition wasn’t just about gastronomic delights, chefs were also put through their paces with military skills, including shooting exercises and water obstacle courses.
Townsville’s 1st Catering Platoon seized the coveted teams Golden Plate for their exceptional teamwork in the military skills component, but were still proud of their culinary exploits.
Team leader Corporal Mitchell Pace said: “We didn’t have the luxuries of an air-conditioned kitchen, so you have to take in considerations of the heat from outside – transporting stuff back in from the tents, sharing equipment and space with the other teams.
“You only have one day where all you need to do is focus on your own dish and get free rein of all the kitchen.”
Corporal Pace was inspired by his Maltese-Italian heritage to produce ricotta and spinach egg yolk ravioli with scallops and brown butter sauce, sous vide duck breast with potato stack and Szechuan peppercorn and plum sauce, and a cinnamon-and-orange sponge cake.
The New Zealand team flew in having just competed in their own version of the Golden Plate.
CAPTION: New Zealand Army chefs compete in the military skills component of Exercise Golden Plate.
Team captain Corporal Kylie Stephenson hailed the military skills component as the ultimate highlight.
“I think for most of us, the soldiering school day was probably one of our favourite aspects, because we don’t get to do a lot of that in our competitions,” Corporal Stephenson said.
“To have a day where we got to go down to handle weapons, and then go into the pool and build rafts and do obstacle courses over the pool, that was the best day out of it all.”
As the winners bask in glory, their next adventure awaits in Canberra, where short-term secondments will have them rubbing shoulders with top military chefs.
It’s also planned for Aussie chefs to compete in the New Zealand competition next year.