Nothing beats a fresh steak in the field, which is something more soldiers will have access to as 10 Force Support Battalion chefs trial a new mobile kitchen trailer during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019.

The trailer forms part of a larger concept to make the Australian Army Catering Corps (AACC) leaner, meaner and greener.

“In terms of cooking, the trailer has all the basic equipment: An oven to bake and steam, a grill for frying and a Bratt pan for steaming, boiling and preparing wet dishes,” Lieutenant Eloise O’Connor said.

“As part of the trial we’re looking at what we can produce out of it, as well as the concept of pushing it forward and what we can do in terms of supporting soldiers.

“Overall, catering is looking at the concept of a centralised kitchen within a large force element, then augmenting that by pushing out detachments of chefs in support of lighter manoeuvre forces, which is where the trailer comes into the picture.”

The trailer concept embodies what Corporal Eloise Anderson thinks is the future of the AACC.

“The detachment kitchen concept is about 10 years out of date; we definitely don’t need all of the stuff that calls on. So, equipment wise, the idea of the trailer is awesome,” Corporal Anderson said.

“This trial has shown us the idea is perfect for what catering is going to change into – probably within the next five years – but we need to spend some time refining what equipment goes into it.

“It’s part of us going green – it lets us show what we can provide to Army, that we still have a valuable place within the organisation and that we want to get out there with the troops.”

The chefs are also trialling using microwave-assisted thermal sterilised (MATS) meals – pre-prepared meals that are vacuum-sealed, then reheated – as an interim meal between combat ration packs and fresh meals.

“When we enter theatre and don’t have a cold-supply chain – which is very fragile – set up, MATS is a potential option we have without needing to bring in perishable food,” Lieutenant O’Connor said.

“It’s the closest thing you will get to a fresh meal, but it’s still extremely durable for that initial infill phase.

“MATS might be a short-term option; but, at the end of the day, if you ask a commander what type of rations they want, the answer will always be fresh food.

“With chefs you get a fresh steak, something chewy or actually crunchy, which makes an actual impact on soldiers who have been eating nothing but combat rations for days.”

Exercise Talisman Sabre is the Australian Defence Force’s largest exercise, involving up to 34,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen from Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.