Episode 2

This four-part series profiles the men and women responsible for feeding the 120,000 British troops stationed overseas. From battlefield to banquet hall, the combat chefs are charged with the task of making hearty meals every day, whatever the weather and whatever the situation. This week, a suicide
attack in Afghanistan puts master chef SSgt Simon Hewitt on high alert; Maj Lomas organises a high-profile canapé evening; and there is some unexpected help in the kitchen at one of the army’s smartest dinner nights.

Keeping the British Army on its feet at home and abroad are the highly trained chefs of the Royal Logistic Corps. This versatile team serves everything from basic scoff in combat situations to haute cuisine at prestigious ceremonial events. Responsible for every army meal served up in London is renowned perfectionist Maj Harry Lomas. Top of the agenda for the Major today is the catering for a cocktail party following a Beating the Retreat parade. “I want high-class canapés,” he says. “It’s not cheese on a stick.” Charged with meeting Maj Lomas’s high standards at this event is newly promoted master chef Danny Taylor – and he is in for a tough time.

In order to cater for what the boss calls “VVVIPs”, Danny and his team will need to pull out all the stops. “What we’re trying to create is a meal within a canapé,” says Danny as he and his team set to work. But new recruit Pte Kat Davis knows better than to expect any slack from Maj Lomas, having already experienced one of his inspections. “Major Lomas is really harsh,” she says. “He never misses a thing.”
In an attempt to impress the boss, the team has prepared a range of offerings, including petite prawn cocktails, small smoked salmon, bite-sized burger and chips and tiny tuna Niçoise. But Maj Lomas is typically unimpressed. “What’s this shit?” he asks, incredulously. However, Maj Lomas claims that his harsh comments are all part of a grand plan to nurture the careers of the young chefs in his care. “I want to see the guys blossom when they’re in London,” he explains. “They are going to be out on the exercises on their own. If we can train them right, they will deliver right.” To help his protégés up their game, the Major takes them to Borough Market on London’s South Bank for a crash course in quality food.

In Afghanistan, conditions for the combat chefs are very different. Here, 300 cooks feed some
8,000 soldiers, often under the threat of mortar fire and in scorching temperatures. Life is particularly tough in the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), where simply keeping the kitchens stocked is a logistical nightmare. However, the combat chefs are determined that there be no compromise on quality.

In charge of keeping the troops well fed at FOB Price in the middle of the notorious Helmand province is master chef SSgt Simon Hewitt. But before he and his team can use the 4,000 eggs, 100 loaves of bread and 300kg of meat that the soldiers get through every week, he must ensure that the incoming ration trucks do not contain any deadly cargo. The camp is on especially high alert because of a nearby suicide bombing that recently claimed the lives of three British soldiers. “The worst thing that could happen
would be for a vehicle-born explosive device to come into this camp,” says SSgt Hewitt.

Back on home soil, Maj Lomas turns his attention to a summer banquet for the army’s top brass. For this event, the Major has managed to pull off something of a coup in signing up a celebrity chef to help with the catering. Before the day of the feast arrives, the young chefs of the London District have the opportunity to learn some invaluable lessons from a professional team at one of London’s top restaurants. “Coming here today is a one-in-a-million opportunity,” says 21-year-old Pte Kirk Davis. “I’ve got to absorb as much as I can.”

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