- Lt Scott Hay
The Future of the Mixed Ranks Mess is Bright
The day was August 31st, 2020, the last day that the 17 Wing Mixed Ranks kitchen was open for business. With a plethora of functional issues surrounding multiple articles of equipment, and the swirling confusion of the COVID-19 pandemic to boot, a prevailing sentiment of uncertainty hung over the kitchen as operations shifted to the 17 Wing Officer’s Mess indefinitely. Many challenges presented themselves while operating out of the OMess, the least of which was having to operate out of a kitchen with less than half the equipment and workspace, as well as vastly-altered work schedules. Yet through it all, the kitchen staff managed to maintain a sense of professionalism and dedication to excellence in serving the needs of the CAF.
Flash-forward to May 5th, 2022 and the grand re-opening of Building 61 finally took place. With food operations migrating back to the main kitchen, the need for establishing new routines and adjusting to a more dynamic work environment was at a high. While a handful of staff were indeed returning to a once familiar stomping ground, many staff found themselves in an entirely new environment, having come onto the team during the pandemic, and had to find a way to hit the ground with their feet running. Through teamwork and effective means of communication, the staff have managed to adapt and overcome and make for a transition that has been as seamless as could have been asked for.
“There’ve been challenges coming back”, said Cpl Burden, a long-time cook at 17Wg, “It’s a bit of a shock to some of the newer staff. Things were certainly busy while at the OMess, and it’s still busy now, but in different ways. There’s an adjustment period to consider, but we’re making do with what we have. One of the best things about being back is the feeling of looking out and seeing a crowded dining area full of people. It’s fantastic to be able to contribute to that kind of atmosphere again versus the empty dining hall during the pandemic.”
“It was certainly a tough go, operating out of the OMess,” says MWO Donahue, “having to manage operations out of one building, while dealing with repairs and delays at the other, proved very challenging. One particular inconvenience was the fact that the OMess kitchen wasn’t setup to properly receive bulk deliveries and most goods had to be transported over manually. Coming back to B61 has had its challenges as well, but it’s much better suited for everyone to be back under one roof again. It’s very fulfilling to see all the patrons eating and conversing while enjoying the good food from our cooks.”
Looking ahead, “optimism” is the tune that resonates regarding the future of the Mixed Ranks Mess. With the majority of mechanical issues resolved, the workplace culture put in place during the pandemic has slowly begun to resemble normalcy once again; and with the return of dine-in eating, a renewed sense of daily comradery has been re-established, and a vital part of morale in operations brought back into the fray. While issues will always continue to persist, the team at 17 MSS Foods has shown the resolve needed, and the confidence required, to adapt and overcome any obstacles that emerge in their path.