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The facts

Job description

You'll handle everything from cooking five-star themed banquets to catering in the field under canvas.



Pay after training


Joining age

16 - 29

Similar civilian jobs

  • Chef
  • Caterer

Usual service

9 years


Citizen of the UK or the Republic of Ireland, or a Commonwealth citizen since birth.

Employment restrictions may be imposed within the Logistics Branch and Trades in relation to the rapid and effective deployability of RAF personnel to countries that apply travel restrictions to non-UK personnel. Non-British personnel applying for these fields of employment are required to certify that they have been advised of the nationality imposed employment limitations and the consequences of not naturalizing as a British citizen.

Open to

male or female

Qualifications you need

2 GCSE/SCEs at Grade G/6 minimum or 2 SNEs at Grade 4 or equivalent, including English Language and Maths.

Qualifications you can gain

Apprenticeship in hospitality, including NVQ Level 2 in food preparation and cooking


Whether or not you were born in the United Kingdom, you should have resided there for the five years immediately preceding your application.

The job

As an RAF Chef, you cover a far larger field of professional experience than your civilian counterparts: from cafeterias to five-star themed banquets in Officers’ and Sergeants’ Messes, preparing in-flight meals, catering in the field under canvas and cooking for VIPs.

If you lack qualifications, you can join as an unqualified Chef and be trained at the RAF Catering Training Squadron at Worthy Down in Hampshire.

If you join with qualifications, you’ll start your professional work significantly higher in the RAF’s rank and pay structure.

I do this job



'I love the cooking, obviously, and also the freedom to do what you want when you want, the chance to go to the gym when you want to.'

What’s your favourite bit of the job?
I love the cooking, obviously, and also the freedom to do what you want when you want, the chance to go to the gym when you want to.

What’s the worst bit of your job?
Working Christmas or New Year. I’ve done three now – I volunteered to do them, but I think that’s the worst for me.

Where’s the best place you’ve ever been with the RAF? Why?

I think the Falklands is the best place I’ve been – I had a brilliant two tours, fantastic.

What’s your typical weekend like?
If I’m staying here, we will go out on a Friday night to the sports and social, have a few drinks there, and then we’ll probably get a minibus into Lincoln, have a good night out. And then shop all day Saturday, and go to the pictures on Saturday night. Sunday I’ll cook a roast, maybe have the friends over and chill out, or do a bit of ironing and housework.

What was your favourite subject in school?
Drama! Drama queen. And home economics.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever had?
I think it would have to be that you have to get things done. Don’t rely on other people to get them done. If you want to do something, you put the paperwork in and push for it, because there’s so much to do in the RAF – there’s chances to travel, play sport, the educational courses are fantastic, and you get time off to do it, you get money to do it.


Si Brown

‘Wherever we're working, we always manage to have a laugh. There's a lot of good-natured banter in the kitchen.’

My role

‘Chefs in the RAF do all kinds of work. I’ve done official functions cooking first-class food, I’ve worked in the Sergeant’s Mess, which is a bit like a canteen, and I’ve done field catering, based outdoors, feeding hundreds of personnel.’

My day

‘In my kitchen here, we prepare meals for about 350 people. There’s a servery with about five or six choices for lunch and dinner, including vegetarian options and a sandwich bar. We take it in turns to prepare meat, vegetarian dishes, poultry and vegetables, so we have a go at everything.’

My experiences

‘It’s not just about producing first-class food in well-equipped kitchens. I’ve been to Belize and the Gulf with the RAF and field catering is another kind of cooking altogether.

‘The conditions can be really difficult, but you just get on with it and make the best of what you’ve got. In Belize, I was making up menus and ordering all the food – the responsibility was all mine, which was great.’

My life

‘After I left school, I worked in pubs round about where I lived. But I do a much broader range of cooking in the RAF than I would do as a civilian chef. I’ve done quite a lot of VIP catering – preparing the type of food that you’d find in top London hotels.’

More stories and views:
Si Brown


Recruit training

Your career will start with a 10 week Basic Recruit Training Course (BRTC) at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. The course is designed to help you adjust to a military environment. As well as fitness and military training, you’ll also learn about the RAF lifestyle.

Specialist Training

If you are joining with little or no catering experience, you’ll complete specialist training at the Food Services Wing DLS CTS (RAF) Worthy Down.

This 17 week course will give you an overview of catering in the RAF and the basic craft skills required of a chef. You’ll also undertake a three-day Introduction to Deployed Operations whilst at CTS During the course you will begin a level 2 NVQ Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) Diploma in Professional Cookery (preparation and cookery) which you will complete during the first year on unit, and you’ll be on your way to gaining an Apprenticeship in Hospitality.

On successful completion of specialist training you’ll receive your first assignment.

You may be eligible for fast-track promotion if you already have acceptable academic catering qualifications and suitable catering experience in the hospitality industry.

Before you join, however, your qualifications will be scrutinised by the Catering Apprenticeship Team.

If you have the relevant qualifications and experience and if you achieve a pass rate of 80% or higher on all practical and theory Phase tests during the 17 week specialist training you will qualify for promotion to Senior Aircraftman/woman and will receive your first assignment. 

Your first tour

For your first tour, you’ll be posted to either an Officers’ or Sergeants’ Mess – which serve food of hotel standard – or to a Junior Ranks’ Mess, which offers a wide range of high-quality meals. It’s your first experience of life on base and a chance to understand how the RAF community works.

Ongoing development

As your career progresses, we’ll continue to train you in new skills, including management and leadership. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to complete further courses in higher culinary skills, food hygiene, and instructor duties.

You’ll also receive regular training in deployed catering and food ordering, accounting and storage.

Your future

Career prospects

You’ll initially join the RAF for a period of nine years.

If you’ve joined without qualifications, after a year you’ll be eligible for promotion to Senior Aircraftman/woman when you pass your Trade Ability Test.

Further promotion to the rank of Corporal and beyond is by competitive selection.

Transferable skills

The NVQ and Apprenticeship you can earn are as valuable in the civilian world as they are in the RAF – which means that whenever you decide to leave the RAF, you’ll be well placed to find a job in the hospitality industry.

Apply now

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0845 605 5555

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