A sailor from Ampthill has been named the Royal Navy Chef Instructor of the Year by the Worshipful Company of Cooks in London.
Leading chef (LChef) Laura Willison was nominated for her prize by her boss at the Defence Maritime Logistics School, warrant officer 1st Class Charles Talbot.
During two postings to the school, based at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall, Laura has passed on her knowledge and expertise in cooking to around 100 newly recruited Royal Navy chefs, in preparation for them joining an operational warship.
Laura said: “Receiving this award was a complete surprise. I didn’t know anything about the nomination. “The letter notifying me of the award and inviting me to the ceremony came completely out of the blue, which made it all the more special to be recognised, both by the Worshipful Company of Chefs and by my boss.”
Laura is also the captain of the Naval Service Culinary Arts Team (NSCAT).
Under her leadership the team achieved the best results, in recent years, at the annual Tri-Service catering challenge, known as Exercise Joint Caterer.
Laura was invited to a special award ceremony in London to receive her prize of an engraved class vase, from the Worshipful Company of Cooks.
The ceremony also included a four-course lunch, which for Laura was a rare treat.
She said: “It made a nice change to be on the receiving end of a nice meal, rather than running the kitchen.
“It was nice to sit down and relax, although with 88 covers I could appreciate what had gone in to planning and cooking the meal.
“The Worshipful Company of Cooks were very hospitable. I met a lot of interesting people, who
showed a lot of interest in the Royal Navy and the cookery team, so hopefully I will have established some links for future competitions.”
Laura joined the Royal Navy in 2000 and has served on a variety of warships, including the Aircraft Carrier HMS Ark Royal when she cooked for His Royal Highness The Duke of York and Her Majesty The Queen
As well as her instructional duties at HMS Raleigh, Laura is currently planning for this year’s Exercise Joint Caterer which will be held in October.
She is also preparing for a training course of her own in readiness for promotion to Petty Officer.
Warrant Officer Talbot said: “Laura has performed to an exceptionally high standard in every aspect of her employment over the last year.
“A very talented chef, she ensures that her knowledge and professional culinary skills are passed onto her students in her role as an instructor.
“Her captaincy of NSCAT has been equally impressive, providing a very junior team with the confidence to perform on the Tri-Service stage, resulting in an unexpected, but equally amazing performance.
“When you also consider her selection for promotion to Petty Officer, this has been an unbelievably productive period in her career, culminating in this well-deserved award.
“The fact that the Worshipful Company of Cooks have acknowledged her achievements make this all the more impressive and special for Laura.”