High praise for HMS Duncan chefs

Cooking for the masses is something Royal Navy chefs do every day however the chefs and catering team on board HMS Duncan have also been refining their fine dining skills with a series of VIP visits and events which earned high praise from HRH the Duke of Kent.

In the space of a few days, the warship, currently deployed in the Mediterranean, has hosted two members of the Royal family, the British High Commissioner of Cyprus and an evening reception.

Currently, the team has two chefs from New Zealand on board and former Royal Navy chefs who have joined HMS Duncan through Project Jules Verne – a scheme that allows ex-chefs to pick up where they left off.

As well as cooking three meals a day for the 250 ship’s company, the chefs have had to prepare and serve the extra food, but with more finesse.

This variety, and the challenge of being a chef on an operational Type 45 destroyer, is one of the reasons AB AJ Mansell joined the navy. The 27-year-old had been a chef for 10 years before making the move from civilian to armed forces.

He said: “This is my first time on deployment and I have enjoyed adapting to this work environment.

“Having to cook during emergency drills or action stations is a fun challenge and keeps the weeks away interesting.

“I loved being a chef outside the navy and it was rewarding but it ended up being the same every day. I wanted to try something new so thought to join the navy, see the world and learn new culinary skills.”

HMS Duncan chefs doing some fine dining

Leading Hand Sean Raine

That style of cooking is what people envision when they want to become chefs so the fact they can do that while serving in the Royal Navy is great. People assume we just cook for the masses but that’s not the case.

When feeding the ship’s company, the 10 chefs on board Portsmouth-based HMS Duncan have to make sure the food is healthy and nutritious. But they have more freedom when planning lunches and dinners for guests.

AB Mansell added: “Doing the fine dining is what I enjoy most as we can have some input into what to cook. We have got more time to plan and more of a free reign.”

When catering for an evening reception, the chefs and catering team make around 2,100 canapes.

“There is a good support system within the team so although making that much food is daunting, we all learn from each other,” AB Mansell said.

“There’s enough experience on board to make the fine dining enjoyable.”

A number of port visits in recent weeks have meant HMS Duncan’s chefs have had access to fresh ingredients for meals, allowing them to put up the best food possible.

And their recent menus for VIP guests have got high praise from Commanding Officer Captain Tom Trent and HRH the Duke of Kent.

Catering office Leading Hand Sean “Badger” Raine said the team enjoy showing their culinary flair and the challenges that come with fine dining.

“Who we have to cater for is so varied, even among the guests we have on board,” he said.

“For the Royal visits, we were given suggestions to work with whereas for others we can create the whole menu ourselves.

“It is difficult to show culinary flair when feeding 250 people so the lunches and dinners for up to 20 people make a nice change.”

And he said hearing the positive feedback was always a boost for the team.

Leading Hand Raine added: “The comments we have got have been really good and all the plates have come back empty which is a good sign.

“The Duke of Kent actually called the chefs to see him so he could thank us.

“That style of cooking is what people envision when they want to become chefs so the fact they can do that while serving in the Royal Navy is great. People assume we just cook for the masses but that’s not the case.

“All the chefs are encouraged to get involved too so everyone can further their skills and try new things.”