Submariners are the Royal Navy’s master caterers

A team from HM Naval Base Clyde has proved they are the crème-de-la-crème of Royal Navy caterers. The submariners were the winners of the inaugural Inter-Flotilla cook and serve competition – the Royal Navy’s version of Master Chef.

Three teams representing the Faslane, Devonport and Portsmouth Flotillas went head-to-head in the kitchen, in a competition sponsored by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.  Devonport was represented by a team from HMS Montrose, while the Second Sea Lord’s catering services team represented Portsmouth.

Using the facilities at HMS Raleigh, each team of two chefs and one front-of-house steward had 75 minutes to cook and serve a three-course meal for three diners, plus an additional plate for the judges.

The submariners winning creation comprised a pollack with curried mussels starter, a main course of duck breast with roasted root vegetables and caramelised pear with gorgonzola ice-cream.

Chef (Submariner) Nathan Elson, a member of the winning team, said: The competition wen“t really well. As a team we were really confident. I felt a little a bit under pressure, but that’s what it’s all about, bringing us out of our comfort zone and encourage us to use the different skills that we don’t normally use.  As a submariner we don’t get to show off these skills very often.”

Each flotilla held its own competition with the winning team going through to the final.  Among the judges was Scottish chef Gary Maclean, who was crowned the winner of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2016.

Gary is also the Executive Chef at the City of Glasgow College and Scotland’s National Chef.  He said:  “For me I just love competitions.  I think it’s a really good way of bringing on young chefs.  I also think it shows another side to the Armed Services, they can come in and cook as well as chefs in civvy street.  The standard was really high, one of the teams was doing something I would be doing in competition; a lot of local produce and another with really classic skills.  Each dish was really different, but really good.”

Gary was joined by Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Si Geldart, captain of the Naval Services Culinary Arts team and Petty Officer Stevie Stokoe, an instructor at the Defence Maritime Logistics School.  Retired Warrant Officer Gary Slater judged the front-of-house service.

The competition wen“t really well. As a team we were really confident. I felt a little a bit under pressure, but that’s what it’s all about, bringing us out of our comfort zone and encourage us to use the different skills that we don’t normally use. As a submariner we don’t get to show off these skills very often.

Chef (Submariner) Nathan Elson

CPO Geldart said:  “We were looking for natural flair, the use of seasonality food, showing off their ability both front-of-house and back-of-house.  We wanted to see knife skills and for the front-of-house we wanted to see them using flambé, how they interacted with the guests and overall we wanted to see how they worked together as a team.  Hopefully this will lead the competitors to compete in the Naval Services Culinary Arts team and in civilian competitions.  The ultimate goal is to get into the Combined Services Culinary Arts team to compete on the world stage.” 

Commander Marc Evans, a former Fleet Logistics Officer, and who now works as the Chief of Staff in the Royal Navy’s People and Training Directorate, was one of the diners.

He said: “The food was lovely.  It’s always lovely to see the skills our young catering services personnel can produce in often difficult circumstances and in kitchens that they are sometimes not familiar with.  The ability to deliver a lunch or a dinner, or indeed a large function, is absolutely core to the Royal Navy’s soft power capability.”