New recruit warms up to signing bonus

LS Robbie McDougall of Base Foods showcases his special cod fillet meal in the kitchen at Nelles Block. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

LS Robbie McDougall of Base Foods showcases his special cod fillet meal in the kitchen at Nelles Block. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A cook with formal culinary arts training says a career with Canada’s military is providing him a permanent port of stability from the topsy-turvy restaurant industry.

Leading Seaman Robbie McDougall, 39, is a certified Red-Seal chef with an impressive list of credentials. He has close to 20 years of experience cooking at high-end eating establishments here in British Columbia, Europe and Great Britain.

But early last year he decided to end his career in the private sector and join the Canadian Armed Forces as a cook. He is currently behind the grill at the Nelles Block galley.

“I have a lot of friends cooking for the private sector who are my age and are grinding it out. I realized what I wanted for me and my wife Sylwia going forward was stability, and doing what I was doing really wasn’t getting me anywhere. I wanted to explore other options.”

He also notes the great benefits that include: no seasonal work stoppage, unlike many private sector restaurants, the rewards of a steady income, and a solid benefits package. His career move was also spurred by the encouragement of a military member who lives next door.

“I wanted the stability that he had in his life and while I was talking to him, I gradually began to ask the question to myself: Do I really want to be slinging burgers when I’m 64?”

A never-before offered signing bonus

LS McDougall also received a $20,000 signing bonus, a new incentive for the trade. It was offered about a month before his formal enrolment because of his culinary training; this also earned him an advanced promotion to Leading Seaman at the graduation parade following Basic Training.   

LS McDougall says the money, and the promotion, have made it possible to make a down payment on his first home.

In the spring of 2018 signing bonuses were introduced for the first time for the cook occupation.

PO2 Heather Smolinski, a recruiter with the Canadian Armed Forces Recruiting Centre Pacific Detachment Victoria, says cooks aren’t the only professions being offered signing bonuses. The CAF is currently recruiting to fill multiple full and part-time employment opportunities.

“Signing bonuses have been offered on and off over the years for a wide range of occupations,” says PO2 Smolinski. “Signing bonuses are not considered a program or entry plan; they are a recruiting tool to attract the right applicants to specific roles and targeted positions within the Forces.”

There are a handful of other occupations currently offering signing bonuses such as Army Communications Information Systems Specialist, Medical Officer and some naval occupations for former fully trained service personnel.

Life in the military

Today LS McDougall helps lead a 10-person team of cooks who prepare lunch and dinner for approximately 200 guests per meal at Nelles Block.

While he spends most of his days working in the mess, he is sometimes called on for other tasks. In November he was part of a team of base cooks who prepared a four-course meal for a South Korean delegation at Rear-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie’s residence.

“My career in the navy has opened up a world of possibilities where I can go to exotic places and work in new environments and that is very enticing and exciting for me,” said LS McDougall. “Quite frankly, I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve in the RCN.”

To learn more about signing bonuses and job opportunities with the CAF visit the website or stop by your local Recruitment Detachment to speak to a Recruiter.

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