Veggie burgers, gnocchi and sticky date pudding - the dinner menu at the end of the earth
French croissants, gyoza, yellow lentil dahl, lasagne and hot chocolate brownies. It’s not the austere menu you might expect at one of the most remote work sites on the planet.
In November, 42 people – including 27 scientists – will head to Edgeworth David Base Camp in Antarctica’s Bunger Hills for about 10 weeks, to study the impacts of climate change on the Denman Glacier and surrounding ecosystems.
It is one of the most ambitious deep-field camps the Australian Antarctic Program has ever operated and will run for three years, with teams flying in last year to build tent platforms, add new 'melon' tents and build the kitchen's foundation.
Chef Jacqui Hsieh will spend three months on site, preparing up to 42 meals at a time in a kitchen that’s 450 kilometers from the nearest supply centre, Casey station.
She’ll have two ovens, two burners and a bain marie to work with but no running water and extremely limited space.
“It’s not the cooking that’s the challenging part, it’s doing the dishes,” she said.
“About half the scientists are vegetarians, four are pescatarians and two are vegan so there'll be lots of plant-based meals using legumes, vegetables and tofu.
“One scientist has some intolerances but nothing majorly serious but I will have to be careful with her food."
'My job is to provide a centre of happiness and comfort'
Ms Hsieh, who originates from Taiwan, has had plenty of experience catering to specific dietary needs in places where nothing is easy.
She has worked in a hospital, at a boarding school and a remote wildlife conservation camp in WA’s Kimberley region “where half of the scientists were vegan because they worked with animals and they didn’t want to eat them.”
At the Bunger Hills, fresh meat and vegetables will arrive cryovacced and many things will be frozen because of space constraints, including the bread dough Ms Hsieh takes out the night before it’s needed.
“It proves slowly overnight in the cold and I bake it fresh for breakfast," she said.
“I will also provide hot soup every morning. It’s a hot and filling way to start the day. My job is to go in and care for the people and provide a centre for happiness and comfort.”
Ham, pudding and macarons for Christmas
She’s ordered 100 kilos of ground espresso coffee – “because people are really particular about their coffee” – and five kilos of instant, as well as six types of plant-based milk. There is no coffee machine so a plunger will have to do.
Commercial poultry products and fresh eggs are banned because of the tiny chance of transferring disease to local seabird populations, so no turkey or duck for Christmas, but every other traditional element has been considered.
“We’ll be missing turkey but there will be ham on the bone, king prawns and oysters, a cheese platter, Christmas pudding and a cheese cake,” the chef said.
"I will also lay out antipasto and a vegan cheese platter, chocolate fondant and macarons.
“The camp is a dry camp so there’ll be some non-alcoholic beers and sparkling grape juice.
“Then on Australia Day we have a BBQ and lamingtons and we play some cricket.”
Scrambled eggs and quiche are still possible, thanks to pre-packed pasteurised eggs, but most of the available fruit will be tinned or dried with the possible exception of a crate of apples or oranges from Casey.
Weekly 'shop' from Casey
Every week Ms Hsieh will send a list of what she needs to Casey station, and it will be flown back.
If the weather is good, many of the scientists will live at even more remote satellite camps for up to a week at a time and self-cater.
If it’s bad, Ms Hsieh could have 42 people hanging around all day looking for snacks.
“I have to be flexible because every day it will change,” she said.
“It could be five right through to the full number in any day because you never know what’s going to happen with the weather. I will be ready and always standing by. “
Ms Hsieh leaves for EDBC in early November and the scientists arrive at the end of the month.