CARTER Barracks, Bulford Camp, was a hive of culinary activity last Wednesday, as some of the British Army's leading chefs convened to battle it out in a cookery competition.

The 3rd (United Kingdom) Division Improvised Field Cookery Competition - an annual event intended to test the skills of three-strong teams of chefs in all areas of field cookery - got under way at 0900hrs sharp.

And judging by the intimidating array of trophies on display, regimental prestige was clearly at stake.

"In the field, they sometimes have to improvise," said liaison officer for the day Captain Vicky Reid.

"It's just to see what they can produce under a bit of pressure."

And the pressure was certainly on. The teams, from such garrisons as Tidworth, Bulford and Aldershot were given just two-and-a-half hours to set up their equipment, devise their menus and produce a three-course meal for five people.

The ingredients were selected from an impressive larder that would have put many a TV chef to shame.

WO1's Paul McQuillan and Dave Rollins, two of the discerning judges, explained that the teams would be assessed on every area of their performance, from the design of their fire-pit ovens to the composition of their menus - where special mention must go to 19th Royal Artillery for some ingenious diagrammatical planning.

The laden trophy table was ultimately plundered by the highly experienced 1st Staffordshire team, whose winning menu included Thai fish cakes and pan-fried breast of pigeon on potato cake.

But it wasn't just a day for the old hands though, as 17-year-old Private Tony Hall, of the Royal Logistics Corps, was named Chef of the Day after just a week in the job.