SFOR Cooking Class

2Lt. Meghan Marsaw
First published in
SFOR Informer#150, October 24, 2002

The luscious aroma of traditional British cuisine filled the air at the Banja Luka Catering College's cooking school on Oct. 9 as Staff Sgt. Gavin Wood taught local students how to prepare some succulent dishes. Wood, the Regimental Catering Senior NCO at the Banja Luka Metal Factory (BLMF) has put together a program whereby 180 local students will learn how to cook and present British dishes.

Banja Luka - This new teaching initiative came about after discussions between Wood and the local baker who provides bread for SFOR soldiers residing at BLMF. The baker suggested that Wood visit the local college and teach a few lessons. Having had previous experience as a Technical Catering Instructor, SSgt Wood was very excited about the idea and has gone on to develop an entire program that suits the specific needs and capabilities of the college.
A human face on SFOR
Wood has approximately four weeks to teach the local students a range of British dishes. In order to achieve this goal he breaks the students down into classes of 15 and teaches for three hours, three times a week.
"I really enjoy teaching and this is a chance to put a more human face on SFOR," said Wood. "We are more than just guns and vehicles."
With the amount of time the project entails and with his friendly demeanour, Wood will certainly help maintain SFOR's positive image with these local students.
The menu the students will have to prepare ranges from cold starters all the way to desserts. Some examples of the dishes include: pan-fried prawns on a chilli coleslaw with sweet chilli dressing; beef fillet on a bed of 'lyonnaise' potatoes served with pan-fried cabbage, crispy leek and a rich juice as well as banana and rhubarb crumble served with custard.
"I want to give them a broader insight into what you can do with food," he explained.
A new experience
Vinka Babic, the school's director, is excited about the opportunity that her school has been offered.
"The lessons are very thoughtful and useful," said Babic. "We do not usually prepare these dishes and it is so much better having them demonstrated by a professional chef. Other countries send their students away to foreign countries to learn other dishes but Bosnia does not have any money. We can’t get this kind of experience anywhere else so its great that, in this case the country has come to us".
Natasha Tadic, a student at the school, cannot wait to try out her new recipes on her friends and family.
"This is a new experience for me. I have not learned any foreign recipes yet," she said. "The food and the preparation are very different. This food is prepared very quickly and is still crispy and full of vitamins. Bosnian dishes tend to be soft."
Mira Madic has been the civilian worker supervisor at BLMF messesfor the past six years. "I want to thank you for Staff Sgt. Wood," she said. "He is the best we have ever seen here at the mess. He teaches the workers all the time. They have learnt so much from him." Wood has even bigger plans for his cooking project. He is trying to get more cooking utensils donated to the school. He is also trying to get the students in for a field trip to his kitchen on the camp.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK

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Photos: Cpl. Simon Butcher

Natasha Tadic, 18, a student at the Banja Luka Catering College, tastes a British dish prepared by Staff Sgt. Gavin Wood from SFOR while her classmates look on.


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Mira Madic interprets the lesson for the students at the Banja Luka Catering College as Staff Sgt. Gavin Wood begins demonstrating how to prepare a savoury cold starter.


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The school's director, Vinka Babic, poses with Staff Sgt. Gavin Wood during a teaching break on Oct. 9.


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As students observe, Staff Sgt. Gavin Wood adds the finishing touches to a cold starter he prepared as a demonstration.