F ood in the military has not always had a good reception, with bland ‘rat packs,’ baked beans and stale bread.
But one Lancashire chef Liam Grime is proving that catering in the armed forces is not just about turning out every day food for hundreds on a military camp or in the field. In between serving up meals for his RAF comrades, the 29-year-old from Garstang has won several competitions with his culinary delights, and has even appeared on TV to compete in both series of Bake Off: Creme de la Creme on BBC Two.
Liam, who studied catering at Preston’s College, says: “I spent eight years as a civilian chef and then I joined the RAF for a challenge.
“I work as a chef in the officers mess at RAF Odiham, in Hampshire. We may cook one dish to serve hundreds of people daily at every meal time, but there are plenty of opportunities to be creative. We have an a la carte menu for the officers mess where we cook to order and there is a VIP post. There are some amazing opportunities as you get to cook in some places you would never imagine.”
With his mum a successful chef at Barton Grange Hotel and cooking up treats in the kitchen, it is not hard to see where he got his inspiration from.
He adds: “We always sat down as a family to have a meal mum had cooked and that was a big part of growing up. Food was a big passion in our family, hence me going down that route. My mum and I worked together at Barton Grange Hotel, which was nice. My younger sister, Aimee, is at catering college and my older sister Lisa is in the hospitality industry. “
Shortly after joining the RAF it was quickly established that Liam had a flair for fine dining he was chosen to join the CSCAT (combined services culinary arts team), made up from the RAF, Army, Royal Navy and Marines.
He was soon representing the military in many competitions. At the end of last month he got through to the semi finals of National Chef of the Year in London and was also in the semi finals of Master of Culinary Arts. The winner of the latter will be announced in two weeks.
Last year, he and the team competed at Hotelympia in London and won gold, Best in Class. They were the first military team to do so in 14 years. Following this success, they went on to compete in IKA Culinary Olympics in Germany, where Liam led a team of 12 chefs against 59 nations with as many as 2,000 chefs participating. The team walked away with two gold and a silver medal.
He adds: “It is important to showcase military talent to prove what we can do. We have the skills and drive to compete against the best in the world. We can stand shoulder to shoulder with Michelin Star chefs and beat them and push them to work harder.”
Fans of cooking shows may recognise Liam as he has been in the last two series’ of Bake Off: Creme de le Creme. He first competed last year with his RAF colleagues Cpl Chris Morrell and Cpl Ian Mark but they got knocked out of competition at the semi final stage. When producers asked if they wanted to compete again this year, they were determined to win - and it paid off. Liam adds: “It is all about pushing yourself to see what you are capable of. There were five rounds which had two challenges. There were various things we had never done before so we had to learn from scratch in four or five days and then perform it on front of cameras and the other teams. We took ourselves away from our family and friends for the whole six weeks and dedicated 14 to 16 hours a day to practicing. It was very stressful, but certainly rewarding. We didn’t think we would win, because we were just military chefs and the other teams did this properly as their day jobs, so this was a big achievement.”