Army chef learns art of fine dining

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A military chef was the special ingredient during a stint in the kitched and at the award-winning Stapleford restaurant La Rock.

Lance Corporal Grahame Wickham, who is an Army chef based with 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, has spent the week working alongside chef and owner Nick Gillespie and his team of chefs.

Grahame cooked up a storm in the kitchen preparing and cooking dish after dish of assorted starters, main courses and desserts.

He said: “It’s been a lot different to what I normally do. I’ve been working with a totally different menu, and of course people, but I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve learnt a lot.”

“It’s been totally different to a normal working day.

“The restaurant can cater for 40 covers. While I can be cooking for that many people at the regiment it is not fine dining. And while the presentation of food is important, it is even more important in the restaurant because it’s part of the experience.

“I’ve learned new techniques and have taken what I do know one step further. For example I wouldn’t have thought to smoke a tomato, but I have done it here and it’s definitely something I will do again.

“I’ve learned some modern ways of cooking that I can take back to the regiment and adapt. I really have enjoyed my time here. The time flew and the guys have been great to work with.”

It is hoped other Army chefs will also be able to take part in a week’s work experience at La Rock under the watchful eye of Nick, who began his career as a chef more than two decades ago.

A strong ambassador for training the next generation of chefs, he said: “Grahame has been really, really good and clearly has a passion for food and cooking.

“I’ve enjoyed the week as much as he has because I’ve been able to teach him how to take what he does know to the next level.

“He’s been able to see a different style of presentation that he can take back and incorporate.

“I am very keen for people to learn, it’s how you grow and evolve. If you want to learn, and Grahame clearly does, then I will always help if I can.”

Grahame spent seven-days working at the restaurant on Bridge Street, Stapleford, before returning to his Norfolk-based regiment.