Ex soldier Ian cooks up success

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A former soldier from Ripon is now considering a career in catering after an activity for veterans boosted his confidence in the kitchen.

Keen amateur chef Ian Humpleby was one of five former servicemen who took part in the biennual game cookery competition Chefs for Heroes – a joint initiative between Help for Heroes and Swinton Park Cookery School in North Yorkshire.

Devised to inspire wounded veterans with a passion for food, it sees the competitors paired with a top chef who trains them to cook a game dish that they then replicate themselves to a tight timescale on competition day.

The participating restaurants this year are among Yorkshire’s finest - Bowcliffe Hall near Wetherby; Samuel’s at Swinton Park; Rudding Park in Harrogate, Rockcliffe Hall on the North Yorkshire border and The Blue Lion at East Witton – where Ian received his training from Head Chef, Jon Appleby.

And now he is looking forward to recreating for friends the meal he was taught to cook as part of the activity.

“Normally I cook Asian food - from Chinese through to Persian and Indian – so I was really interested in being able to showcase a game recipe for my friends. It’s that thought that inspired me to enter, rather than a desire to win!” said the 49-year-old.

“I like a challenge and was keen to get some pointers to enable me to improve my skills and learn new processes.”

Ian followed in his family’s footsteps when he joined the army, starting as a junior leader with the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, at the age of 16. During his five years’ service as an infantry soldier, he served in Northern Ireland and Kenya.

Since leaving the Forces, the father and grandfather has suffered hugely from Service-related PTSD and struggled to find work but he received support from Help for Heroes after moving to the Ripon area.

“I wanted a quieter way of life,” he explained, “and now I am working with staff at Phoenix House Recovery Centre to try to find a job that I can do despite my mental health issues. Because I suffer from anger issues, certain environments are not suitable.

“Thanks to Chefs for Heroes though, I think cheffing is an option for me – albeit in a very small, understanding team.

“I enjoyed the competition as it was competitive but with good old forces banter and I learned the more finesse side of cooking.”

Melanie Dickinson, Help for Heroes Recovery Manager (North) said the Chefs for Heroes competition was a unique experience that the participants never forgot.

“We aim to give our nation’s heroes one less battle to fight – to enable them to live secure and healthy lives, with purpose.

“Vocational visits play a vital role in helping veterans explore new career options, but Swinton Park once again took this to another level,” she explained.

“For some, it may provide a step into a future career; for others it may reduce profound feelings of social isolation, but all participants will grow in confidence and develop skills, which benefit both themselves and also their families.”

One of the judges for Chefs for Heroes was Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, Sir Gary Verity who said: “All five dishes were superb, so a huge well done to all of the competitors.

“Yorkshire is renowned for its eclectic range of world-class restaurants and locally produced culinary delights, so it was wonderful that some of the county’s finest chefs came together to mentor the veterans and help them expand their culinary skills for this competition.”