It was like a scene from Food Network’s Chopped or Bravo’s Top Chef at the Ottawa’s Naval Reserve Division HMCS Carleton when the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) hosted a “mystery box” cooking challenge on April 25.
The challenge was designed to showcase and test the RCN’s new combo-steam ovens, made especially for Canada by Rational AG.
“The RCN is well known for employing the best cooks in the Canadian Armed Forces. These state-of-the-art ovens will continue that long-standing tradition of providing healthy and hearty meals to our dedicated men and women serving on operations at sea around the world,” said RAdm. Gilles Couturier, Deputy Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy.
Two teams, consisting of RCN cooks, culinary students, and local Ottawa chefs, were given just three and a half hours to prepare an appetizer and main course from a box of mystery ingredients.
Working together to beat the clock and prepare the best possible meal, the teams were judged on technique, waste, organization, presentation and taste by a panel of esteem judges including local food critics, cookbook authors and Capt. Stephen Irwin, Director of Naval Logistics.
“We hosted this competition as a fun way to highlight the innovative cooking technology coming to RCN ships. These changes will modernize the delivery of food services onboard ships at sea and deliver food that is healthier and safer than the deep fat fryers and charbroilers. It’s a very exciting project,” said LCmdr. Deanna Wilson, Senior Staff Officer Food Services.
Said to be safer than cooking in hot oil and more energy efficient, two of the combi-steam ovens will be installed in the galleys of HMCS Calgary and Vancouver by the end of the summer. All 12 Halifax-class frigates and 12 Kingston-class maritime coastal defence vessels are expected to have the new ovens within three years.
The new ovens will replace deep fat fryers, char-broilers, and griddle in the Halifax-class vessels and the deep fat fryer and grill in Kingston-class ships.
According to a Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces press release, the ovens use a combination of steam, hot air technology and an intelligent cooking system to produce higher quality of food in a shorter amount of time. It is also considered to be healthier and results in less food waste.