Ex-chef retains army connection

Former New Zealand Army chefs (from left) Sam Pickford, of Waitati, Kate Johnston, of Melbourne,...
Former New Zealand Army chefs (from left) Sam Pickford, of Waitati, Kate Johnston, of Melbourne, and Johnny Rogers, of Enfield, with daughter Samyah (10), were reunited at the Enfield Anzac Day service. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN
Before he ran the Fort Enfield Tavern, Johnny Rogers spent 22 years in the New Zealand Army as a chef.

He joined the Regular Force in 1990 to get experience, aware the army offered internationally-recognised qualifications. He never expected he would stay for 22 years.

New Zealand Army chefs fulfil the vital role of keeping soldiers sustained and Mr Rogers worked in dining halls across the country and mobile and tented field kitchens overseas, including operations in East Timor and Afghanistan.

He left the Regular Force in 2011 and worked on a dairy farm at Five Forks, then in various jobs in Palmerston before he and his wife bought Fort Enfield Tavern last year.

The army had been a big part of Mr Rogers' life, so he enjoyed remaining connected as a New Zealand army reservist.

"There's no commitment to it, but you're still in the system," he said.

"The thing you miss the most is that camaraderie, so it's nice to have that connection still ... it's good for people who are leaving the Regular Force, they can be a stand-by reserve and if something doesn't work out for them then they can transition back."

This month, Mr Rogers and his wife Amber celebrated a year in business at the Fort Enfield Tavern.

While many country pubs across the country were closing their doors, Mr and Mrs Rogers had defied the trend and turned Fort Enfield into a thriving business.

"It's going really well - we've been blown away by the support we've had. We've turned it into a destination, with people coming out from Oamaru and then we've got the Alps 2 Ocean [cyclists] as well," he said.

At yesterday's Anzac Day service at the Enfield Presbyterian Church, Mr Rogers was reunited with two of his former colleagues - Sam Pickford and Kate Johnston - who worked as chefs in the army when he was a kitchen manager. They have both since left the army.

There was standing room only at the Enfield Presbyterian Church for the district's Anzac service, as about 100 people turned out to pay their respects.

Jan Wedge recited a poem she wrote about Armistice Day and guest speaker Rob Douglas, author of Mighty Oaks, told the story of the district's memorial oaks scheme and the continued efforts to the health and welfare of the trees.

In 1919, 400 oak trees were planted in North Otago, one for each of those who made the supreme sacrifice, as a living memorial.

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