Despite the austere working conditions at Patrol Base Shahzad, in Nad ‘Ali (North), and limited ingredients, the chefs go to great lengths to produce a varied and healthy menu, while maintaining the strictest of hygiene standards.
In order to feed almost 250 people for six months, the chefs will cook with:
• 12,150 slices of bacon
• 3,024 tins of beans
• 8,400 baguettes
• 5,880 slices of pizza
• 1,200 whole chickens
• 1,150 sacks of potatoes
• 3,840 steaks
Corporal Lee Sutton is in charge of the kitchen, and in addition to actually cooking the food (or scran as it is known to the Marines), he is responsible for stock-taking, cleanliness, and sorting out the shift pattern so there’s always someone around to feed the hungry mouths. He said:
The job we do as a Royal Marines chef is one of the hardest jobs I’ve done. Day in, day out - whether it’s blazing sunshine or a raging dust storm - we have to deliver three square meals to front line troops, in extreme conditions.
The days may be long but the rewards are fantastic. It’s great to see the lads get a hot meal inside them after coming back from patrol, and it’s a great morale boost for the guys.
Marine Jeremy ‘Hoops’ Hooper used to be a professional chef but joined the Marines in 1994. Since then he’s served in Iraq, Norway, America and Africa. Now in Afghanistan, he’s found himself back doing a job he loves. He said:
I enjoy creating dishes and giving the lads morale, it’s what motivates me, and it’s also a very important role in an operational tour. A good meal is one of the main things front line troops look forward to at the end of the day. It gives me a sense of satisfaction to know that I and my team are raising the lads’ morale throughout their tour.
Joining Corporal Sutton and Marine Hooper in the galley is Corporal Richard Wright. The 25-year-old, who lives in Plymouth, is on his fourth tour of Afghanistan. He said:
Being a chef and being able to bring a smile to lads’ faces after they’ve been through hell gives me an immense sense of pleasure and job satisfaction. It can be a battle to produce high quality food with the bare minimum of rations but, whatever job it is we have to do, Royal will do it to a very high standard.
Lieutenant Colonel Ewen Murchison, Commanding Officer of the 42 Commando Royal Marines Battle Group, said:
It is a true testament to the adaptability of Royal Marines that highly trained combat soldiers can just as easily turn their hand to being a chef, and not just do it, but do it to professional standards, with seemingly limitless enthusiasm and good humour.
I’m incredibly proud of what they produce for us on a daily basis, and visitors to the camp regularly comment on the high quality of our galley.