NZ Army chefs fulfil one of the most vital roles in keeping our soldiers sustained, healthy and happy. As a chef you are responsible for consistently providing tasty and nutritionally well-balanced meals, using both your technical and creative skills.

  • Service
  • Specialisation
  • Location
  • Starting Salary
  • Upcoming Intake
    11 July, 2022
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About the role

NZ Army chefs fulfil one of the most vital roles in keeping our soldiers sustained, healthy and happy. As a chef you are responsible for consistently providing tasty and nutritionally well-balanced meals, using both your technical and creative skills. Your passion for excellence within the hospitality industry will see you represent your team and the Defence Force well, whether you’re cooking at home in the mess (dining hall), overseas on operations, or during competitions.

You will be taught all you need to know to operate effectively in a small catering team, eventually as a head chef, working in a range of environments from full kitchen facilities in camp to our mobile and tented field kitchens. You will gain internationally recognised qualifications and get the opportunity to compete in a variety of cooking competitions.

Job on base

You daily task is to produce quality meals in any one of the different types of kitchens, working in rotating shifts either within camp or using field kitchens on exercises. You will usually produce healthy, nutritious food for large groups (varying from 80 to 800), using your logistics and planning skills to create menu’s that provide the balance required over sustained periods. At times you will cater for smaller groups, for example during formal dinners, where you’ll have an opportunity to create more intricate and challenging dishes.

You will be taught all you need to know to operate effectively within small catering teams, and eventually, once you’re fully qualified and have gained sufficient experience, you’ll lead the kitchen as head chef. You can expect to rotate through postings in either a soldiers, senior ranks, or officers mess within any one of the NZ Army camps. You will sometimes be cooking for visiting dignitaries and other VIP guests.

Your core work hours are an 8 hour shift, ‘early’ shift starting around 5am, and ‘late’ shift finishing around 7.30pm. Further hours are required to provide support for formal dining and functions.

Job on deployment

Good meals have a huge influence on the morale and well-being of deployed personal, and they must provide all the nutritional requirements to maintain operational effectiveness. As our personnel face unfamiliar environments and challenging conditions, this is the time when your role as Chef and the quality and thoughtful planning of your meals has a wider, positive impact.

Depending on the operational situation, you may be required to set up kitchens, or to maintain and improve facilities. Your role may extend to other duties outside the kitchen such as sourcing produce and maintaining hygiene standards. There may also be times when you are working with locally employed people in your team.

Chefs deploy with large contingents on various overseas operations. In the past this has included Bosnia, Bougainville, East Timor, Dubai, Somalia and Afghanistan. The opportunity to participate in exchange programmes to Australia and small exercises in the Pacific, and on Navy ships, are frequently possible.

I love the diversity that we get in the NZDF. One day I could be in the kitchens doing a normal meal, the next day I could be running a formal dinner and the week after I could be up in Waiouru in a training area.

Career progression and training

Career Progression

Basic Training

Job Training

Ongoing Training

Initial catering training is provided at the Defence Catering School, where you will train alongside Navy chefs. This training is conducted at either Devonport (Auckland) or Waiouru, depending on training numbers for each course. You will begin as an assistant Chef within a small team, and will progress on to being a Chef in charge of the shift. Eventually you will move into kitchen management and take up the role of head chef.

There are opportunities to instruct at the Defence Catering School once you’re fully qualified and have gained good experience.

Upon successful enlistment into the Army you will be posted to Waiouru Army base. Here you will do 16 weeks of basic military training to find out if you have what it takes to be in the Army, and learn various subjects including:

  • Organisation and Administration
  • Army Customs and Protocol
  • Drill and Parades
  • Military Field Skills and Weapon Training
  • First Aid
  • Physical Fitness

You will first attend a four week basic course that will familiarise you with the vehicles and equipment used by the Royal NZ Army Logistic Regiment. You may also begin training to gain your heavy trade, forklift, and other driving licences.


Alongside your Army promotion courses you will complete a number of catering trade courses.

Throughout your career you will attend three separate courses at various times, the first is an introduction to cookery where basic cooking and knife skills are taught. The next course has you advancing to further complex dishes, and bakery and butchery skills. Finally, you will complete the advanced catering course.

In conjunction with each level of training there is a field component where you are taught how to cook with NZ Army operation kitchen equipment for both small and large numbers.


All following trade courses are held at the Defence Catering School in Devonport Naval Base (Auckland) or Waiouru Military Camp:

  • NZDF Caterer Junior Course (Basic cookery and knife skills)
  • Army Caterer Operational Field Junior Course (Introduction to field catering equipment, and catering in the field environment)
  • NZDF Chef Intermediate Course
  • Army Caterer Operational Field Intermediate Course (Introduction to shift leader in the field environment)
  • NZDF Chef Senior Course (Advanced catering, complex menus and dishes, and function planning)
  • Army Caterer Operational Field Senior Course (Kitchen leader in the field environment)
  • NZDF Caterer Advanced Course (Kitchen and mess management, operational catering planning)

As you progress in your career, you will have opportunities to learn other skills to branch out into other roles, including HR and management.

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Salary and benefits

Careers in the Army are well-rewarded, diverse and exciting. As you become more experienced and move up through the ranks, gaining additional skills and qualifications, your salary will rise accordingly.




Starting Trade Training


Higher Rank

Benefits and allowances

There are many additional benefits to being in the Defence Force, that will make your money go further.

For example, on top of your basic salary you can expect ‘Military Factor’. This provides you with significant extra financial rewards because of the commitment you’ve made to serve your country.

Free medical and dental

Access to subsidised equipment on base

Subsidised food on base

Competitive superannuation, up to 4% with KiwiSaver

Sponsored tertiary study programmes at all levels

Entry requirements



Fitness and Medical


Period of Service

  • You must be at least 17 years of age
  • Meet the citizenship and security requirements to gain CV security clearance for this trade
  • Driver's Licence: A Class 1 restricted driver's licence is recommended, but is not compulsory
  • Cooking experience, or a background in catering, will make you a more competitive applicant

You must have 10 NCEA Level 1 credits in each Literacy and Numeracy.

Find out more about the NCEA levels and certificate requirements

  • You must be medically fit for service.
  • Colour perception restrictions may apply.

There are strict citizenship and security requirements to gain the required CV security clearance for this trade.

Find out if you’re eligible here.

There may be a return of service period for this trade.

Please contact our 0800 number or talk to your Candidate Experience Facilitator for more information.


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