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Cindy’s Journey from Luzon to Australian Airforce Chef

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By Rachael Davis

“An army marches on its stomach”, a phrase supposedly coined by Napoleon, encapsulates a fundamental truth: the efficacy of a military hinges not only on its prowess but also on good, well-prepared and plentiful food.

Quality food is the backbone of maintaining solid morale across the services.

An emerging talent in Air Force making mouths water with her culinary skills is chef-in-training, Aircraftwoman Cindy Cao.

Having spent eight years working in aged care, Aircraftwoman Cao decided to follow her dreams and become an Air Force chef, which begins at Glen Waverley TAFE in Victoria.

Aircraftwoman Cindy Cao prepares food during her initial employment training at Holmesglen Institute Glen Waverley, Victoria. | Photo credit: LAC Ryan Howell
Aircraftwoman Cindy Cao prepares food during her initial employment training at Holmesglen Institute Glen Waverley, Victoria. | Photo credit: LAC Ryan Howell
Aircraftwoman Cindy Cao prepares food during her initial employment training at Holmesglen Institute Glen Waverley, Victoria. | Photo credit: LAC Ryan Howell

“Working in aged care, you make a notable difference to the lives of others every time you head to work, which I found very rewarding,” Aircraftwoman Cao said.

“I also realised how important life is, and how important it is to go after what you truly want, and for me, that meant pursuing my long-held passion for cooking.”

It’s been a life-changing journey for Aircraftwoman Cao, just 10 years after arriving in Australia from her small village in the Philippines.

“I grew up on the largest island in the Philippines archipelago called Luzon, before moving to Australia in 2014 as an international student studying at Penrith TAFE in Sydney,” she said.

“From the moment I signed up it was a game changer for me because I love being in the kitchen – my comfort zone, and I have always loved cooking for my family and friends.

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“I love to see the plate of food I have served them being empty afterwards and it’s always been a passion of mine to serve people.”

Aircraftwoman Cao said she was enthusiastic about being able to add her own slice of Filipino flair to the meals she’ll cook once she’s graduated and posted to a RAAF base kitchen.

“One dish that I would really love to develop for a RAAF menu is a very popular meal back home among my family and friends: roast pork cooked in charcoal,” Aircraftwoman Cao said.

“I know how much Australians love their roasts so if I can bring a bit of my culture to the way I cook meals in the future with Air Force – even if that means adding in a few more herbs, spices and garnishes like lemongrass – the better the result.”

Sprinkling her combined cultures through the dishes she prepares is central to Aircraftwoman Cao and her hopes in making a difference to the meals in RAAF kitchens.

“It’s a great responsibility cooking quality food for our Defence Force and I feel incredibly fortunate to be given the opportunity to do so,” she said.

“Being a chef has always been a dream of mine and now learning to become one in the Royal Australian Air Force is an added thrill.”

Filipino chef Cindy Cao | Photo credit: LAC Ryan Howell

​Learn more about Aircraftwoman Cao’s Air Force journey by watching her video on the Air Force YouTube channel: Air Force Chef | Aircraftwoman Cindy Cao – YouTube

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