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Sweet Victory for Navy Chef Ian – The Best in the Forces

3 November 2023
A Royal Navy chef wowed judges to be crowned the best in the military – a year after narrowly missing out on the title.

Leading Chef Ian Wilson was named Inter-Services Senior Chef of 2023 ahead of culinary maestros from all three Armed Forces at the National Agricultural and Exhibition Centre in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.

Ian – who’s assigned to the Navy’s special hospitality team – is used to working in a high-pressured environment and serving up the finest food. 

In 2021, he led the kitchen for the G7 Summit in St Ives, catering for many world leaders including US President Joe Biden.

He’s also competed in the military’s annual Joint Caterer competition for several years, last year earning the silver medal in the senior chef category.

Gold was his goal for this year’s event – and having won it, he’s already looking at his next challenge.

“When they called my name, I felt ecstatic, I am so happy, I was so close last year but there was one big fault which meant I lost points,” he said.

“To win this year and put Senior Inter-Service Chef to bed is good. Now I am focusing on the next big challenge: National Chef of The Year.”

What did he serve to scoop the title? To start: turbot with samphire, peas and smoked bacon, pickled onion, oyster poached in Vermouth cream and chicken skin, curry sauce, potato crisps, dill oil and lemon foam.

That was followed by a main course of cep-rolled venison loin, venison tartelette with celeriac, confit potato, stuffed morel, parsnip and tonka beans, pickled blackberries and venison and morel sauce.

And to finish off the three-course treat: spiced pumpkin cake, poached pumpkin, chocolate crèmeux, blueberry compote, pumpkin seed brittle, cacao nib, hazelnuts and crème fraîche sorbet.

When they called my name, I felt ecstatic, I am so happy, I was so close last year but there was one big fault which meant I lost points.

Leading Chef Ian Wilson

The Royal Navy Culinary Arts Team picked up several other medals, including Petty Officer Gina Towler-Harbon, whose take on the classic fish and chips earned her a gold medal in Open Plated Sustainable Fish.

Her twist on the British Friday-night favourite included pan-fried hake topped with pea puree and pickled quails egg – fair to say, it was more complex than your average chip shop.

Gina has been competing since 2014 as part of the Culinary Arts team but this was her first gold. She has previously achieved silver and bronze but has always been aiming for the top step of the podium.

“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to achieve; you never go into the competition wanting a bronze you always want the gold. When I realised, I had won Gold it was an amazing moment. I couldn’t quite believe it. It felt surreal. Then I had the gold medal in my hand, and it suddenly became very real”

Team Captain, Chief Petty Officer Scott Furber, praised his chefs for their constant team presence and brilliant teamwork.

The judges agreed with Scott, awarding the Royal Navy the Team Ethos Award – maintain the RN’s outstanding record of taking it every year since the title’s inception.

“A proud moment for me is watching the rates who have never competed before come off stage with big smiles on their faces,” Scott said.

“When they walk through the doors for the first time at our boot camp and see what they deliver on the first day of training compared to during the competition is what it’s all about.”


Photos by: US Navy Photo – Russell Stewart .

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