Cooking up a storm in a storm - The tricks of a Navy Chef

20120423_PH_T1015674_0028 Able Chef Longstaff, at home in the Galley

30 April 2012

Able Chef Henry Longstaff has been around the Navy most of his life. From St Martins in Christchurch, his father was the captain of the dive support ship HMNZS MANAWANUI.

But Henry only joined the Navy himself after training as a chef and working in hotels and restaurants in Queenstown. ‘I needed a change,’ he says. ‘My life was getting too loose.’

Henry, who’s 23, is one of four chefs on board the Wellington, one of the Navy’s new offshore patrol vessels. In his three years with the Navy he’s travelled from the Bering Strait to Papua New Guinea – and most recently returned from Auckland Island in the sub-Antarctic.

Cooking at sea throws up some challenges, particularly in a storm when the seas are high and the crew are feeling sick, he says. ‘You have to alter the meal to the conditions – if it’s rough don’t make anything too moist or you’ll wear it.’

Cooking for 40 or so people, on a typical day he’ll go through 15 dozen eggs. The Auckland Island voyage was part of an endurance trial, where the chefs set themselves the task of cooking for three weeks without restocking their supplies.

But nobody on board does just one job, and Henry is also part of the emergency team, dealing with floods, fires and toxic gas leaks. He’s had to cope with several fire scenarios – events he calls ‘terrifying’.

The variety and the challenges, he says, are part of the appeal of the job. In a few years he’d like to train as a Navy diver, a notoriously tough course.

Another challenge has been a beard-growing competition at sea. Henry carries a full seven-month growth, which looks more Viking than Navy. But it’s apparently within the rules: once a permission to cease shaving form has been submitted and approved, a beard is allowed as long as it is ‘full and reasonably tidy’. Incidentally, he won the competition.

Henry says he enjoys the Navy life. ‘You have good friends around the world. And if there’s an opportunity you get stuck in.’

Whenever possible he gets ashore and finds out about the places he’s visiting, for example having an encounter with sea lions in the sub-Antarctic.

‘It’s a different world,’ he says. ‘I always want to give it a go.’


For more information please contact Lieutenant Commander Angela Barker, Senior Communications and Media Advisor – Navy on 021 244 0638

This page was last reviewed on 31 January 2013.