IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
CORPORAL MELISSA MILLER: I’m Corporal Melissa Miller from Calgary, Alberta. I’m a cook posted to CFB Comox.
Cooks provide nutritional sustenance to keep the Canadian Armed Forces moving – three meals a day, seven days a week all year long in a wide variety of conditions and settings. From operations at home like firefighting and flood relief – to deployments overseas such as antiterrorism and peace support operations, military personnel need nutritious meals to be able to do their jobs. Cooks are the highly trained culinary experts who prepare almost 10 million meals every year.
MILLER: I love cooking for huge amounts of people. I’m actually terrible at cooking for two. There’s leftovers in my fridge for days.
Cooks gather nutritious ingredients each day to plan meals for soldiers, sailors and aviators. They may work in base kitchens across Canada or in the field in a mobile kitchen trailer during exercises and deployments, or onboard naval warships and submarines.
MILLER: Being a cook in the military is never the same day twice. One day you could be cooking out in the field, the next day you could be doing a VIP dinner or a mess function and you’re putting out 5-star food for people vs. the mass production of a buffet line.
Healthy, great-tasting food brings people together, no matter what the situation. And cooks are there to make it happen – they take great pride in preparing exceptional meals for everyone they feed.
MILLER: Seeing all of the happy troops that are full and ready to go back out into the field is great. We provide the morale for the military. We feed everybody.
MILLER: Not everybody can cook a meal for 500 people and say “I cooked that.” You know, that’s a skill that is definitely very cool and I know my parents are in awe when I cook Christmas dinner and it takes me an hour-and-a-half and they’re like: “We start the turkey at 5 AM – why are you putting yours in now?” It’s just what I know how to do.
Once fully trained, cooks are posted to a unit within the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force, the Canadian Army or Canadian Special Operations Forces. During their first two years, they’ll complete an on-the-job training package designed to help them continue to develop their culinary skills.
MILLER: Definitely, there’s challenges there. You’re going to learn all different aspects of cooking – from some butchery, you’re going to learn how to bake, you’re going to learn how to make salads, sauces. And you have to learn how to make it taste good, too.
Cooks work in fully operational kitchens that serve 50 to 2,000 diners or more for each meal. They are passionate about their craft, open-minded, and have a profound love of all things food. They take pride in creating savoury meals that people truly appreciate and enjoy. Cooks are of vital importance to the Canadian Armed Forces and provide nourishment for all personnel as well as civilian dignitaries. They bring people together and create a sense of comfort to those who serve at home and abroad.
MILLER: I decided to join the Canadian Forces because it looked like a great adventure. My husband had been in the military for about 9 years – he was always away on adventures so I wanted to get in on that action.
MILLER: You need to care – you need to put the love into food ‘cause if you don’t put the love, people can taste the difference. And I know that sounds crazy, but you can taste the difference in food that’s been prepared by somebody that loves their job and loves what they do vs. somebody that’s just doing it because they need a paycheque.