Royal Airforce catering officer
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Flight Lieutenant Peter Smith is the officer in charge of the Mobile Catering Support Unit – which provides food and drink for RAF personnel when they're on operations and exercises.
What does your job involve?
Basically, it's about keeping hungry troops fed, wherever they are in the world. The Mobile Catering Support Unit can deploy anywhere from Iceland to Iraq.
What did you do before you joined the RAF?
I was a restaurant manager in a hotel in Manchester. The job is similar in some ways – I'm still dealing with resource issues and quality control, but in the Mobile Catering Support Unit, we're providing top quality catering and hospitality services in a tent!
What's catering under canvas like?
It can be quite a challenge. There's a heat source, water and raw ingredients just like you'd have in a normal kitchen. But you have to work quite hard to comply with food safety regulations – and in the desert, the temperature can be over 50 degrees celsius.
What skills and qualities do you need?
You have to be quite a rugged individual, and enjoy coping with what the elements can throw at you. But everyone in the Mobile Catering Support Unit has volunteered for the job. It's very rewarding. When troops are on operation, they really look forward to their dinner at the end of the day. So our role is incredibly important for morale.
What's the best thing about your job?
I don't know whether it's the variety, the challenge or the level of responsibility. At 25, I'm responsible for a six-figure budget. I also travel overseas regularly.
What other roles are available to catering officers?
Before I came here, I was running a team of 88 RAF staff – chefs, stewards and catering accountants. We catered for daily meals and VIP functions and entered culinary competitions as well.
- Don't be put off by the fact that you sign on for six years. The time goes in a flash.
- Take each day as it comes and you'll enjoy your life and work much more.
- To join the RAF as a catering officer, you need at least an HND in a hospitality related subject.
- You do six months of officer training which is designed to help you develop your leadership and management skills.
- There's also a short catering course to get you up to speed with RAF hospitality services.
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