RAF Cranwell

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Jess Clewlow

00:00:03 Hi, my name is Jess and I’m a Royal Air Force Caterer. My job as a caterer involves working in an officers’ mess or a sergeants’ mess. More front of house working on reception or the bar, also accommodation. We also have jobs like VIP which is working in the Station Commander’s residence on unit. We can branch off and go flying and go air steward.

00:00:32 My stepdad and my real dad are both army background so it was a go and join the RAF so I did. As a kid in the forces background, you are constantly moving around. With the army, it was every two years, so one minute you’re in Germany, then you’re res in Ireland, back in the UK. So it was constant on the go to you’re getting to know people. So I do think that helps as well because with me being in the RAF, you kind of just get on with it and get to know people and get chatting and it’s easier to get on with people ‘cos you’ve had that background.

00:01:09 I wanted to be an air stewardess so I went into the AFCO and asked to become something to do with catering towards the air steward rank and they said we had to go into the catering side of it for 18 months into the mess. So you’d go on to do that and then you can go flying and apply for flying but I kind of enjoyed the mess side of it so I stayed.

00:01:34 To be an air stewardess in civilian street, you have to be 21. Well I joined the RAF when I was 16 so I left school and joined straight up so then you can go and do it that way so in 18 months’ time, I’d be 18.

00:01:48 For a big function, it’s not just a day thing, it’s a couple of days, may be a week long preparation. We then have…you have to get the numbers of how many people are going to be sitting. Then obviously the person who’s maitre d’ of the night will then take control, write a brief, arrange the staff. There is then obviously all the back prep, all the silver equipment and all the crockery and cutlery all has to be cleaned. Then it’s choosing the wine through the bar and cleaning the glasses.

00:02:18 Then on the actual day of the function, everyone like mucks in together and we all lay up the dining room and getting the flowers out and the trophies and the candelabras. So it’s a long day. It’s just starting from first thing in the morning and then we usually have a little break in the afternoon when it’s all done and it’s been okayed by the mess manager and then we’re back in at night to silver serve and go ahead with the function.

00:02:42 This is my white jacket. We all wear them on dining nights, through meal services, preparation for food and the sandwich bar and things like that. They are really smart. When all the girls are wearing them and we’re all lined up properly, it’s really nice to see.

00:02:58 Prince Phillip. I was there last year. We had a…he came and had a look around the station and we actually silver served him a dinner par…at a dinner so that was quite good. I kind of feel proud because he’s there and that you’re serving him and you’ve got…you’ve got something to tell somebody about it. But it is very nervous ‘cos obviously you want everything to go perfect and you don’t…you want him to go away and kind of sneakily think well that’s quite good actually. Nice food and good service.

00:03:29 It’s very long hours but I guess that’s it, that’s the only worst bits I can think of.

00:03:38 The best bits about my job I think is when you’ve laid up a dining room and how good it looks, you might have loads of mistakes going on in the background into the kitchen but the diners are all sat there and they’re really enjoying themselves. And when you’re maitre d’ for the night and someone comes up to you and shakes your hand and tells you how good their night was and it was a brilliant meal and so that’s…it is really good, it’s satisfying. ENDS

With early ambitions to be an air stewardess, Jess left school at 16 to apply for the role of Caterer in the Royal Air Force. So far she has kept her feet on the ground working in places like the the officers’ mess. She loves the variety that the role brings and the opportunities to impress diners (some famous!) with the quality of the food and service provided.

More information about Waiters and waitresses

average salary

The UK average salary is £29,813

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

29%  male 
71%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

Future employment

Future employment?

? Waiters and waitresses serve food and beverages in hotels, clubs, restaurants and other establishments.
There are no formal academic entry requirements, though some employers may require GCSEs/S grades. Training is typically provided on-the-job. NVQs/SVQs in relevant areas are available at Levels 1 and 2.
  • Sets tables with clean linen, cutlery, crockery and glassware;
  • Presents menus and wine lists to patrons and may describe dishes and advise on selection of food or wines;
  • Takes down orders for food and/or drinks and passes order to kitchen and/or bar;
  • Serves food and drinks;
  • Presents bill and accepts payment at end of the meal.
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