NZDF Chef Helps Plan Christmas Feast in Antarctica

20 December 2018

Christmas lunch can be stressful, even for experienced cooks.

However, if you are a chef in Antarctica, where supermarkets in Christchurch are 4,500 kilometres away, preparing for the year’s most anticipated feast can be even more challenging.

“Supplies are delivered by ship to Antarctica only once a year, so we have to make do with what we currently have,” said Corporal Quentin Hathaway, a New Zealand Defence Force chef working at Scott Base, New Zealand’s permanent research support station on the continent.

“If we lack certain ingredients, it’s not as simple as popping down to a supermarket to grab a few things.”

Although fresh fruit and vegetables are flown from Christchurch every two weeks during summer, Antarctica-based chefs mainly use frozen vegetables and tinned fruit.

“We cannot have certain vegetables like leeks because of the biosecurity risks they pose. We also don’t have any meat products that contain bones to reduce waste, which is sent back to New Zealand every year.”

To avoid a culinary crisis on Christmas Day, Corporal Hathaway and the two other chefs at Scott Base began planning the menu for the festive celebration in early November.

Turkey and champagne ham will be the centrepiece of the Christmas table, he said. There will also be cranberry stuffing, roast potatoes and kumara, brandy snaps, pavlova, pudding and Christmas cake.

Corporal Hathaway arrived in Antarctica in mid-October for a five-month posting at Scott Base. He helps prepare four meals a day – morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner – for about 85 scientists, researchers and support personnel.

“Sunday is when they get to enjoy a cooked brunch, including make-your-own waffles, followed by a roast,” he said. If he is on the morning shift, Corporal Hathaway clocks in at 6am and finishes at 2pm.

“The first thing I do is bake bread, which is made fresh every day. I then prepare morning tea, with sausage rolls the favourite.”

In addition to his kitchen duties, he also forms part of the Scott Base fire crew.

On Sundays, which is his usual day-off, he joins other Scott Base staff to explore ice caves and historic huts, get up close with penguins and seals or experience being lowered into a crevasse.

“Two of the highlights for me so far were carrying the New Zealand flag during the Armistice Day centenary commemoration at McMurdo Station and getting up close with emperor penguins,” he said.

Born and raised in Porirua, Corporal Hathaway enlisted in the New Zealand Army in June 2006 after completing Year 12 at Tawa College.

One of the reasons he joined was because he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather Maxwell Duckmanton, who served as part of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

“An Army career provides many opportunities to travel and meet lots of people,” he said.

This page was last reviewed on 5 February 2019.