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Chefs from 16 Air Assault Brigade are serving up support to Colchester Night Shelter.
Two chefs from the town’s Merville Barracks visit the homeless shelter once a week to cook dinner for its 20 residents. The voluntary project, which has been running for a year, has also seen the chefs re-organise the centre’s kitchen and stock keeping.
Last week Corporal Sam Coote and Lance Corporal Callum McMullan cooked chicken soup, spaghetti bolognese and chocolate sponge and custard for 20 people.
Cpl Coote, 24 from Colchester, said: “I look forward to coming down to the Night Shelter when it’s my turn. It’s an easy way to use our skills as chefs to give something back to the community. We visit a few days before to agree a menu and then come down and cook. Everyone enjoys the food, it’s a friendly place and everyone helps with the washing up afterwards!”
LCpl McMullan, 23 from Airdree, said: “Day to day as an Army chef we’re cooking in the messes on camp and preparing to cook out in the field on exercises, so this gives us a chance to do something different with our skills.
“I really enjoy preparing a home-cooked meal for people who are not as fortunate as I am. The residents really appreciate our cooking and it’s good to know that you’re helping people.”
Alastair Leighton, Colchester Night Shelter resettlement and welfare worker, said: “The Army chefs have been coming for a year without fail and have been a real enhancement to the centre and the network of volunteers who support us. The feedback from our residents is very positive - the soldiers’ cooking is really good and they get on really well with everyone.
“But it’s not just cooking, the soldiers have really helped professionalise our kitchen by advising us with stock keeping, menu planning and chemical storage.”
Night Shelter resident Levi Jones said: “The Night Shelter has been very important to me. I was homeless for 6 weeks and with their help I’m sorting myself out. It’s great having the soldiers come in to cook for us, they’re friendly and the dinners are really nice.”
Warrant Officer Class 1 Jim Tallon, who is in charge of catering for 16 Air Assault Brigade, organises the volunteer chefs.
He said: “This is a win-win for everyone involved. Our chefs are developing their professional skills, both cooking and kitchen management, and their wider leadership and teamwork through working in a different environment with different people. At the same time we are helping a good cause in Colchester, as a way of saying thank you to the wider community for the support they give us.”
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British Army Press Release Dated 29 January 2015