In the first of what will be a series of regular monthly visits, chefs from the Royal Logistic Corps turned out to help residents at a veterans’ hostel learn culinary ‘survival  skills’ with a difference.
Three RLC Chefs, attached to 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards from HQ London District, travelled to the newly refurbished Veterans Aid hostel, New Belvedere House, in Stepney where they christened its state of the art training kitchen by teaching residents how to prepare, cook and serve nourishing meals.

The first four veteran ‘students’ to take part – Simon Christie (RA), Clive Spencer and Ryan Mahoney (Household Cavalry) and David Cadet (PWRR) – declared the day “a fantastic success”.

Clive said, “We started at 10.00 o’clock, we cooked pancakes with blackberries and blueberries – which turned out quite successfully. Then we did bacon and sausage – a proper cooked breakfast really. It was absolutely brilliant! We all ate the breakfast and invited some of the other guys down as well. It was even better because we shared it.”

A lunch of chicken fajitas with spring potato wedges followed, with strict attention to preparation, the right way to chop and prepare . . . and of course, the washing up.

Chef Sgt ‘Taff’ Lloyd added, “For the rest of the day we’ve got fresh lasagne, with Bolognese, a sauce, tossed salad and garlic bread. They’re shaping up well – keen to learn and acquire a new skill that they can take with them when they leave.”

The RLC chefs were joined by WO1 Damien Marsden and Captain Jade Binskin-Barnes from London District, who were given a guided tour of the newly refurbished accommodation. WO1 Marsden’s verdict on the day, “It was great to see the smiles on the veterans faces, watching them being taught how to cook what they wanted to cook, being taught basic food hygiene and cooking techniques . . and I think they’ve had a bit of fun doing it!

“This is our first visit, so we will be looking for ways of improving on it and looking forward to teaching them a bit more. I think it has been a huge success and for us to be able to teach in this kitchen facility, which is absolutely superb, is a pleasure. They have everything they need, everything is brand new – it super!”

New Belvedere House, which is presently undergoing an £8m+ redevelopment and refurbishment, provides temporary accommodation for up to 66 ex-servicemen who have either been homeless or faced the prospect of homelessness. The facility had been in constant use since 1973 and seen hard wear.

CEO of Veteran Aid Dr Hugh Milroy said, “It was always our intention to do more than patch and repair, so we decided to make a virtue out of necessity and create a facility that went the extra mile in every way – environmentally and practically. The completed development will feature an IT suite, gymnasium, therapy rooms and, perhaps most importantly, the training kitchen which was first used today.

“This wonderful kitchen was largely funded by The John Slater Foundation and it is truly a gift that will keep on giving. We can’t thank them enough for their generosity.

“We have always enjoyed a close relationship with the RLC and when they learned about our plans the GSM, WO1 AJ ‘Vern’ Stokes and WO1 Marsden, came to me to discuss a plan. Seeing it come together like this is wonderful. Anyone can provide a meal; that’s a handout. Our aim is to provide something more enduring. Providing veterans with the skills to cook for himself is a true hand up.”

The RLC chefs are all volunteers. WO2 Jasper Cornock, Sgt Richard ‘Taff’ Lloyd and L/Sgt Dan Targett were up first but others will follow as their duties allow.

WO1 Marsden said, “The whole facility is superb, and we are delighted to be involved. The cookery programme will be driven by what VA and the veterans want to get out of it.”