Bert Good, Business Development Chef for Nestlé Foodservice, was recently involved in judging the regional heats of Nestlé's annual competition for catering students Toque D'Or. It's something he really enjoys, as during his 25-year career with the Army, he had several stints as a lecturer.
"It's great to see the students put so much effort into the competition," he says.
The finalists of the competition will have to serve 130 covers at a purpose-built restaurant at the Daily Telegraph Homes & Gardens exhibition this month. "The standard is very high this year," he says, "so it will be interesting to see who wins."
Involvement with the Toque D'Or is just one of the elements of Bert's position with Nestlé.
On leaving the Army, Bert joined the company as advisory chef where he supported the regional sales force by giving cooking demonstrations to potential customers. "The way it works is, if you join the Army on your 18th birthday, you leave the day before your 40th birthday and become a pensioner straight away," Bert says. "I often joke that I'm Nestlé's only serving pensioner!"
He has been in his present role of business development chef for seven years. "I do demonstrations and give advice on how to serve products," he says. "I deal with leisure channels, airlines, businesses and contract catering. My colleague Steve Love is in education and health care."
Bert also conducts training courses about products and recipes.
Does he think his Army background has helped him in his current job? " If you've been in the services, you're reliable and very disciplined," he says, then adding with a smile. "I do have little quirks like time-keeping - I like getting to places early."
Bert had no ambitions to become a chef. He was good at sport at school and competed as a sprinter at 14, "but knew I needed a trade". In 1966, he joined the Army Catering Corps at the age of 15. "I'd done domestic science at school - I'd been the only boy in the class - so they asked me if I wanted to be a chef," he says.
After his three year apprenticeship, he was selected to become personal chef to two Generals - "There was lots of entertaining - two or three dinner parties a week."
During the next four years, he was promoted twice before going to Germany as a Corporal at the Royal Corps of Transport where he ran the officers' mess, covering functions for up to 100 people.
In 1977, after two years, he was promoted again to the rank of sergeant and posted to the First Battalion Black Watch Regiment in Ballykinlar, North Ireland.
As The Black Watch was a Scottish regiment, Bert had to serve up Scottish favourites. He recalls going out on an exercise and cooking for 100 men in the middle of the field. "We cooked haggis in batter and 'stovies' - a kind of corned beef hash," he says.
That year when the Queen went to Balmoral, Bert accompanied the Black Watch as Cook Sergeant. He was responsible for feeding all 106 soldiers from a small kitchen at the soldiers' barracks at Ballater, a small town outside Balmoral. He was also involved in preparing canap‚s and finger food at a function, held as a "thank you" for the Black Watch. This gave Bert an opportunity to see first-hand the kitchen at Balmoral. "It was very olde worlde," he says.
In 1979, he was posted to the Army School of Catering in Aldershot as a Chef Instructor for four years. "I'd been selected for the post. I like working with students it was a good career move. I've always enjoyed teaching and running courses," he said.
One of his biggest challenges during his Army career was in 1983, when he was posted to Osnabruck, West Germany, as Master Chef to the 25 Engineer Regiment. Here, he was in charge of 20 chefs and provided up to 2000 meals per day in three locations.
On military exercises, Bert and his team provided four meals a day, cooking on petrol burners. He recalls: "We were issued with tinned rations, so you had to become a bit ingenious! The soldiers were always hungry - so we used to try and fill them up with lots of pastry. My famed dish was Corned Beef Wellington. I used to make the pastry in the field, open the tinned corned beef and go foraging for fresh mushrooms to put in the dish - or you'd use cheese. You had to improvise. The problem was we had to keep moving - so you might cook one meal, then you'd have to pack up and move on and of course, all the washing up was done by hand."
On his return to the Army School of Catering, he worked first as Chef Instructor and then as Course Administration Officer. His last two years were spent in the role of Area Catering Manager in Bicester, North Oxfordshire, catering for over 2000 covers daily in six locations, with a team of 70 chefs. This included stock control, ration distribution and maintaining and updating equipment in all kitchen locations.
As business development chef at Nestlé Foodservice, Bert has been involved in the relaunch of the Maggi, 270, brand with new improved recipes. The relaunched products have included Maggi Traditional Soups, 271; Maggi Gravy, 272, which can be used for making dishes such as pie fillings and cottage pieces; Bechamel Sauce, 273, and Bouillons, 274, which can be used for a host of recipes; Demi-Glace, 275 - all you do is add cold water and it's ready to use in five minutes. As Bert says: "Making a demi-glace from scratch is very time-consuming and can take 14 hours to make."
Bert is investigating how to warm up the cookies in bulk. "I'm working with caterers to look at the options," he says. "For example, there's a need for this at stadiums. They're a great product and they're flying out of the door!" He says.
In his spare time, Bert is keen golfer with a handicap of six. He's married to Sue and has one daughter "who's never shown the slightest interest in cooking" and two grandsons. "If one of them is interested in becoming a chef, I would encourage it," he says.
Bert Good - Career Highlights
1991 to Present - Business Development Chef, Nestlé Foodservice
HM Forces - Army Catering Corps
1989 to 1991 Area Catering Manager - Bicester, Oxfordshire
1987 to 1989 Course Administration Officer, Army School of Catering
1985 to 1987 Chef Instructor, Army School of Catering
1983 to 1985 Master Chef - 25 Engineer Regiment, Osnabruck, West Germany
1969 to 1983 Various positions including Chef Instructor; Production Manager with the First Battalion Black Watch Regiment and Personal Chef to two Generals.
1966 Joins Army School of Catering as apprentice
Pasta Salad recipe
Cooked Eliche Pasta 500gm
Maggi Tomato Coulis 300gm
Feta Cheese 100gm
Red Onion 100gm
Freshly ground salt and pepper
1. Place the pasta in boiling salted water, when cooked, refresh under cold water, and allow to drain.
2. Dice up the feta cheese and peppers, slice the red onions.
3. Mix this with the cooked pasta.
4. Mix with the Maggi Tomato Coulis.
5. Season, and finish with the basil
NB: cooked meat can be added to this recipe.