IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
LEROUX: Three meals a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year… cooks provide the fuel that keeps the men and women of the Canadian Forces up and running. Whether it’s here at home, abroad on deployment, at sea or in the air… everyone has to eat, and we’re responsible for feeding them.
Hi, I’m Leading Seaman Dana Leroux. I’m from Ottawa, Ontario and I’m a cook here at CFB Esquimalt, British Columbia. I chose to become a cook because I love hard work and I love the satisfaction of serving a good meal.
How many professional cooks can say that they’ve worked on a ship’s galley…
DOUCETTE: Or in a field kitchen in Afghanistan? Hi. I’m Master Corporal Kim Doucette, currently posted at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, and I’m an Army cook. The thing I like most about this job is every day you come into work, you never know what each day is going to bring.
DETERING: I’m Corporal Tony Detering, originally from Montreal, Quebec. I’m posted here at CFB Comox as an Air Force cook. One of the best opportunities of taking a trade as a cook in the Forces is you can work at any base in Canada and also around the world.
DOUCETTE: We adhere to strict standards of nutrition, cleanliness and food
handling, to make sure everyone’s getting the sustenance they need to do their jobs. After a while, it feels like we’re cooking for a family… a very large family!
DETERING: You’re all team players of the same organization, trying to get a job done, and you get to know everyone. “Hey, Cookie, how’s it going? What’s on the menu tonight?”
DOUCETTE: Whenever possible, we like to make people feel at home. We prepare all sorts of traditional favourites, like roast turkey and stuffing, or chocolate cake. And we regularly introduce new menu items… as well as different kinds of desserts and pastries to keep things interesting. We do everything from serving formal dinners… to whipping up a bunch of appetizers and snacks for special events.
I’ve been in the military six years, and I was chief cook last night for the mess dinner, and it was pretty cool.
LEROUX: We also operate a number of huge, state-of-the-art kitchen facilities across the country… where in-flight meals for Canadian Forces flights are prepared.
LEROUX: Cooks go wherever the troops go. So depending on whether you choose to serve with the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force, you could find yourself working almost anywhere in the world. And no matter where they are, the troops know that the dining hall is a place where they can get out of the weather, relax, and enjoy a good meal. People have often said that the mission is only as good as the food is.
DETERING: You are the morale of the Forces and you gotta make sure you feed them well.
LEROUX: So that’s a pretty big responsibility and I don’t take it lightly.
DOUCETTE: For cooks working in the field, the challenges are considerable. It’s like going back to the basic fundamentals of the trade. We’re working in mobile kitchen trailers or in a semi-permanent re-locatable kitchen if it’s a larger camp… often with just a single propane burner, and no electricity or running water.
But the Army marches on their stomach, and a well-cooked meal, really boosts morale when they’re far from home.
LEROUX: Cooking onboard ships has its own challenges, like working in a compact kitchen, while the sea pitches beneath you. You have to be vigilant. Something as simple as a boiling pot of water for soup becomes dangerous.
DOUCETTE: To do the job well requires a special blend of skills and creativity, taste and an eye for detail, and good communication skills.
DETERING: As a cook, you’ll be on your feet most of the time, lifting, carrying, and working around equipment… running a large-scale professional kitchen is very demanding. After the end of the day when you clean up and you’ve done it, you all kind of pat each other on the back. Wow, that was a lot we had to feed, but we got it done.
LEROUX: I’d say the key ingredient to being a good cook is being a team player. In the kitchen, we’re all working together and relying on each other to put out the best possible product.
DOUCETTE: There’s always a time and a place to shine and do something on your own, but the key part right now is to be a team.
LEROUX: You know the age-old saying: “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
DOUCETTE: Cooks start off in the same place everyone else does, with the Basic Military Qualification course, or BMQ, at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This is where you’ll learn the basic core skills, knowledge, and values common to all occupations in the Canadian Forces. After that, it’s off to the Canadian Forces School of Administration and Logistics in Borden, Ontario, for thirteen weeks of Basic Military Occupational Training.
LEROUX: Here is where you learn how to be a cook in the Forces.
DOUCETTE: There’s a lot of theory, a lot of demonstration, but mostly a lot of hands-on. It’s a fully functional kitchen. You’ll learn the specifics of small and large quantity cooking, field cooking, how to maintain specialized kitchen equipment… relevant terminology, budgeting and costing… safe food practices and fire precautions.
You may be eligible to receive most or all of your initial occupational training under the new Non-Commissioned Member Subsidized Education Plan, or NCM SEP. This program allows you to get the same training at a recognized college or technical school, close to home. After that, as an Apprentice Cook, you’ll be part of a team, and your training will continue while on-the-job… eventually, you could be responsible for running the entire kitchen!
DETERING: Once you have done this several years and you have the skills and you take the testing, you can become a qualified Journeyman.
LEROUX: At the Journeyman level, you’ll be given more responsibility, independence and opportunities to prove your leadership potential. From there, you can train for Supervisor and Management levels, where your leadership skills are further developed.
DOUCETTE: In our dining facility, we could either feed Army, Air Force, or Navy.
LEROUX: There’s no other role that I can think of where the job you do every day affects every member of the Canadian Forces.
DETERING: You are needed and you are respected by the troops when you do a good job. They come to us, we feed them, and we send them on their way.
LEROUX: And they love us for it! If you like working as part of a team in a fast-paced, demanding environment, cooking food for a whole lot of people, then you should seriously consider becoming a cook in the Canadian Forces.