RAF staff lend a hand at bakery

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Hambleton Bakery has extra hands on deck this week as No 3 Mobile Catering Squadron Chefs from RAF Wittering get stuck in at Rutland’s famous craft bakery.

Deployed military catering depends on skilled chefs and how they use operational rations. On operations No 3 Mobile Catering Squadron (3MCS) use prepared ration packs and whatever fresh ingredients are available to make nutritious and tasty food for service personnel.

This week, chefs from 3MCS are at Hambleton Bakery in Exton. In exchange for a learning opportunity to pick up new ideas and keep those operational menus fresh and interesting, the guys from 3MCS are putting their highly skilled hands to use in an artisan kitchen.

Flight Sergeant Maxine Booth had the original idea. She said: “Food must be nutritious and it has to keep you going, but it’s also got to be interesting and tasty. People have got to want to eat it. Putting our chefs into a different environment will help them stay creative.”

Corporal James Sharples and Senior Aircraftman Ben Harvey spent the day crafting sweet and savoury cakes and pastries under the experienced eye of Julian Carter, director and head baker. Julian was once an RAF chef and the opportunity to help his old service was too good to miss.

Julian said: “I used to do exactly the same thing, go and work in other places just to learn. It’s amazing watching other people work because it gives you so many ideas.”

Working in the artisan kitchen, Corporal Sharples was pleased by what he’d seen and learnt. He said: “The guys on operations have got to have the right number of calories to keep them going, but we can adapt what we’ve seen here today and make something new.”

The bakery is a busy place. On Tuesday morning the savoury section produced quiches with red pepper and sundried tomato, scotch eggs, handmade sausage rolls and quiches with quince, roasted butternut squash and Stilton cheese. Meanwhile the sweet kitchen was busy producing chocolate and pistachio tarts and fruit scones. The items will be sold at the bakery’s shops, including in Stamford, Oakham, and Oundle.

Squadron Leader Steve Micklewright is the Officer Commanding No 3 Mobile Catering Squadron. He said: “I am so impressed that our chefs have leapt at this chance to broaden their skills and learn something new.

“We always have exercises and operations on the horizon, so this arrangement couldn’t have come at a better time for us.”

If successful, other artisan food providers in the area will be invited to take part in the coming weeks and months.