NZ Army chefs fulfil one of the most vital roles in keeping our soldiers sustained, healthy and happy. As a chef you are responsible for consistently providing tasty and nutritionally well-balanced meals, using both your technical and creative skills. Your passion for excellence within the hospitality industry will see you represent your team and the Defence Force well, whether you’re cooking at home in the mess (dining hall), overseas on operations, or during competitions.
You will be taught all you need to know to operate effectively in a small catering team, eventually as a head chef, working in a range of environments from full kitchen facilities in camp to our mobile and tented field kitchens. You will gain internationally recognised qualifications and get the opportunity to compete in a variety of cooking competitions.
Job on Camp
You daily task is to produce quality meals in any one of the different types of kitchens, working in rotating shifts either within camp or using field kitchens on exercises. You will usually produce healthy, nutritious food for large groups (varying from 80 to 800), using your logistics and planning skills to create menu’s that provide the balance required over sustained periods. At times you will cater for smaller groups, for example during formal dinners, where you’ll have an opportunity to create more intricate and challenging dishes.
You will be taught all you need to know to operate effectively within small catering teams, and eventually, once you’re fully qualified and have gained sufficient experience, you’ll lead the kitchen as head chef. You can expect to rotate through postings in either a soldiers, senior ranks, or officers mess within any one of the NZ Army camps. You will sometimes be cooking for visiting dignitaries and other VIP guests.
Your core work hours are an 8 hour shift, ‘early’ shift starting around 5am, and ‘late’ shift finishing around 7.30pm. Further hours are required to provide support for formal dining and functions.
Job on Deployment
Good meals have a huge influence on the morale and well-being of deployed personal, and they must provide all the nutritional requirements to maintain operational effectiveness. As our personnel personnel face unfamiliar environments and challenging conditions, this is the time when your role as Chef and the quality and thoughtful planning of your meals has a wider, positive impact.
Depending on the operational situation, you may be required to set up kitchens, or to maintain and improve facilities. Your role may extend to other duties outside the kitchen such as sourcing produce and maintaining hygiene standards. There may also be times when you are working with locally employed people in your team.
Chefs deploy with large contingents on various overseas operations. In the past this has included Bosnia, Bougainville, East Timor, Dubai, Somalia and Afghanistan. The opportunity to participate in exchange programmes to Australia and small exercises in the Pacific, and on Navy ships, are frequently possible.
Initial catering training is provided at the Defence Catering School, where you will train alongside Navy chefs. This training is conducted at either Devonport (Auckland) or Waiouru, depending on training numbers for each course. You will begin as an assistant Chef within a small team, and will progress on to being a Chef in charge of the shift. Eventually you will move into kitchen management and take up the role of head chef.
There are opportunities to instruct at the Defence Catering School once you’re fully qualified and have gained good experience.
Careers in the Army are well-rewarded, as well as being diverse and exciting. As you become more experienced and move up through the ranks, gaining additional skills and qualifications, you will see your salary rise accordingly.
While undertaking initial Recruit Course you will be paid as a Recruit (see attached pay table). On completion of your Recruit Course you will be paid as a Private and your pay will continue to increase as your career progresses.
- You must be at least 17 years of age
- Meet the citizenship & security requirements to gain CV security clearance for this trade
- Driver's Licence: A Class 1 restricted driver's licence is recommended, but is not compulsory
- Cooking experience, or a background in catering, will make you a more competitive applicant
You must have achieved the NCEA level 1 Literacy and Numeracy requirements
- You must be medically fit for service.
- Colour perception restrictions may apply.
Upon successful enlistment into the Army you will be posted to Waiouru Army base. Here you will do 16 weeks of basic military training to find out if you have what it takes to be in the Army, and learn various subjects including:
- Organisation and Administration
- Army Customs and Protocol
- Drill and Parades
- Military Field Skills and Weapon Training
- First Aid
- Physical Fitness
You will first attend a four week basic course that will familiarise you with the vehicles and equipment used by the Royal NZ Army Logistic Regiment. You may also begin training to gain your heavy trade, forklift, and other driving licences.
Catering trade courses
Alongside your Army promotion courses you will complete a number of catering trade courses. NZ Army currently provide formal training to gain recognition through London City and Guilds Institute for the Certificate in Food Preparation and Cookery.
Throughout your career you will attend three separate courses at various times, the first is an introduction to cookery where basic cooking and knife skills are taught. The next course has you advancing to further complex dishes, and bakery and butchery skills. Finally, you will complete the advanced catering course.
In conjunction with each level of training there is a field component where you are taught how to cook with NZ Army operation kitchen equipment for both small and large numbers.
All following trade courses are held at the Defence Catering School in Devonport Naval Base (Auckland) or Waiouru Military Camp:
- NZDF Caterer Junior Course (Basic cookery and knife skills)
- Army Caterer Operational Field Junior Course (Introduction to field catering equipment, and catering in the field environment)
- NZDF Chef Intermediate Course
- Army Caterer Operational Field Intermediate Course (Introduction to shift leader in the field environment)
- NZDF Chef Senior Course (Advanced catering, complex menus and dishes, and function planning)
- Army Caterer Operational Field Senior Course (Kitchen leader in the field environment)
- NZDF Caterer Advanced Course (Kitchen and mess management, operational catering planning)
International Cookery Qualifications
The job training courses will give you the opportunity to gain internationally recognised cookery qualifications. Chefs are currently awarded the London City and Guilds Institute Certificate in Food Preparation and Cookery, as well as any awards achieved at national or international culinary competitions.
In New Zealand all chefs can be posted to Trentham Military Camp, Linton Military Camp, Burnham Military Camp or Papakura Military Camp.