Regiment chefs handling the heat
They say if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
But, for the chefs of the Royal Bermuda Regiment in sweltering hot Jamaica, deserting their posts with more than 200 hungry soldiers to feed three times a day, is not an option.
At Titchfield Camp in Port Antonio, the base for soldiers rotating through for grueling jungle warfare training, run with assistance from British Army and Jamaican Defence Force experts, a total of six chefs, two from the JDF, run the kitchens.
Private Royale O’Mara, a chef at the Fairmont Southampton in civilian life, said that working in basic conditions without extractor hoods or air conditioning was a challenge.
The 30-year-old, from Hamilton Parish, who was conscripted into the regiment six years ago and opted to stay on, added: “It’s got everything a kitchen needs, except a hood to take all that hot air out.
“It’s much more basic than we’re used to, but we make it work and our timings are good
“We do get tired, hot and sweaty, and we’re constantly drinking water: out here you can never drink too much water.”
But he said: “I’m liking my time here. I like the scenery, meeting new people and learning more about their culture and their cuisine.”
He added: “The troops are happy with the quality of food, which is great considering we have limited equipment to keep everything hot.”
The chefs get up at 4.30am to set up for breakfast and do not finish work until after dinner around 6.30pm in the evening.
At Titchfield, up to 130 breakfasts are prepared. A typical morning’s sitting uses six loaves, six large-size containers of fruit juice, six dozen eggs, 30 family-sized packets of bacon, gallons of milk and hot and cold cereal.
Chefs at the other camp at Twickenham ranges near Kingston produce the same amount of food in an even smaller kitchen, with one frying hundreds of eggs five at a time in a single frying pan.
Private Desrine Mowatt, 35, from Devonshire, who is originally from St Thomas in Jamaica, said the chefs had introduced Bermuda soldiers to Jamaican recipes like banana cornmeal and oat porridge for breakfast and salt fish and ackee.
She added: “It’s fine: the facilities aren’t as good as they are at Warwick Camp, but we manage. I’m from here, so I can manage the heat.”
Head of the kitchen, Colour Sergeant James Raynor, a 38-year regiment veteran, said: “We make out with what we have and what we bring with us. It’s hard work, but we enjoy it.
“And good food is important – it not only helps soldiers cope physically, it also keeps their morale high. And, in conditions like this, that’s crucial.”
The 58-year-old school custodian from Southampton added: “The majority of the food is locally sourced. I always go a day ahead to place my orders and they have it ready the next day. It helps to support the local economy too, which is good.”
“The soldiers are very appreciative – they always ask for more, which is a good sign.”
Quartermaster Captain Kenneth Wainwright, in charge of logistics and catering, said: “The regiment marches on its stomach. If their stomachs aren’t full, the regiment doesn’t move. That’s how important it is.”
He added that the regiment being split between Titchfield Camp and Twickenham ranges in Spanish Town, near Kingston, 150 miles away over a massive mountain range, was an additional challenge for the catering team.
Captain Wainwright said: “There’s a lot of logistics that goes on behind the scenes. It’s the most aggressive we’ve ever been. But local suppliers have treated us well and our staff have worked very well in extremely tough conditions. It’s really tested them.
“I’m very proud of my team and I couldn’t ask for a better one.”
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