Swiss Armed Forces Culinary Team wins international cooking competitions
December 8, 2016 — No comments
In 2016, the Swiss Armed Forces Culinary Team won gold twice in categories “Patisserie” and “Food Display” at the Culinary Olympics in Germany. (Photo courtesy VBS / Küchencheflehrgang.)
The Swiss Army does not believe in catering
The Swiss military cuisine has come a long way. With the famous army biscuit (a recipe developed 55 years ago by Swiss biscuit manufacturer Kambly) still part of provisions for every member of the Swiss Armed Forces, today’s mess hall offers delicious meals.
These routinely include special diets such as vegetarian. “Other dietary allergy restrictions are accommodated wherever possible,” states Colonel Jörg Hauri, Commandant, Armed Forces Chef’s training course. Colonel Hauri is also Commandant of the Swiss Armed Forces Culinary Team.
Since 1938, the Swiss military trains all their chefs. Today, new recruits undergo primary troop chef’s training at a modern barrack in Thun. Chefs are responsible for meal preparation of up to forty members of the armed forces. A subsequent course to full chef’s designation including leadership training is available to those who show interest.
Who are the educators of these training programs? Colonel Hauri: “Our advantage lies in the fact that the Swiss Armed Forces have a system of repeat military service over a number of years rather than a long-term service period. This enables us to recruit world-class chefs who work professionally in the Swiss hospitality industry for our training program.”
A decided advantage for Swiss Army trained chefs. In addition to qualifying for the federal civil chef’s diploma, by the time military chefs graduate, they have gained valuable leadership experience in addition to practical experience. This is rarely possible in private-industry vocational training.
Five star, executive chefs train Swiss army chefs
It comes as no surprise that this unique system of chef’s training gave rise to another innovative idea.
The stellar educators, working as executive chefs at such renown houses as five-star Jungfrau Grand Hotel Victoria in Interlaken or Hotel Schweizerhof in Bern, decided to test their skills against their international counterparts. In 1999, the Swiss Armed Forces Culinary Team (SACT) was born.
Staff Adjutant Daniel Marti, Teamleader SACT since 2011, proudly recounts the team’s many international successes. Most recently, this includes winning the Culinary Trophy for the years 2016 and 2014 at the bi-annual Intergastra International Hospitality & Gastronomy Trade Fair in Stuttgart. SACT also won the armed forces category in the world’s largest culinary exhibition, the quadrennial Culinary Olympics at Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung (IKA) in Erfurt in 2008 and 2012.
Swiss Army wins gold medals at international cooking competitions
Clad in white cooking blouses over standard-issue army camouflage pants and black fighting boots, the SACT team not only displays their winning creations for the judges, but also sells meals to trade visitors to offset some of the costs.
Staff Adjutant Marti smiles mischievously when he recounts how popular and quickly the SACT meals get swooped up. The competing military team members are first in line to more or less stealthily abandon their own food tables to buy the Swiss Army meals!
When the armed forces category was discontinued in 2012 after SACT won the competition twice, the team decided to compete in the private industry category. And promptly won two more gold medals. One in category Patisserie, the second in Culinary Art Display. This landed the team sixth place out of 54 contestants.
If you’re in the Thun area, look up one of roughly eighty cooking events the division puts on every year. You will be served what Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer–head of the Swiss Federal Department of Defence in the previous legislation–called “the best army food in the world.”
Alternatively, you can purchase Staff Adjutant Marti’s new cook book “Das Beste aus der Schweizer Militärküche”. Old favourites and creative new recipes are illustrated with fabulous photography and augmented with insightful and funny stories. They provide an entertaining look into the history and development of Swiss national as much as Swiss and international military cuisine.
Did you know about the award winning Swiss Armed Forces Team, let alone their competition winnings? Please leave a comment below.
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