Watch these chefs try to turn Army food into gourmet cuisine

The standard U.S. Armed Forces field ration is, above all other considerations, designed to make you emotional.

Sure, an MRE needs to be nutritious. Obviously, it also needs to be lightweight, packable, durable, quick, and easy to prepare. It’s got to have a long shelf life because who knows when it’ll be called up for active duty. And at the end of the day — and not just because it’s the end of the day — the damn thing ought to taste good.

After years of research and development, laboratory refinement, and testing in the field, the military has the MRE dialed to within an inch of its life. Private, does your dinner have “Vegetable Rotini” stamped on its olive drab shrink wrap? Yes? Then, by God, you can trust that when you just add water, the thing you find rehydrated on the end of your spork will resemble a rotini (Vegetable Class) to the highest degree achievable by military science.

Our host finds his feelings at the bottom of the feed bag. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl trusted in the prowess of the military’s culinary industrial complex. After all, he named his show after its signature offering.

When he visited the labs and testing facilities of the United States Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA, he was excited to spend some quality time covering familiar territory. What he didn’t count on was the depth of the emotional response that many of his interview subjects had to meals they’d eaten as soldiers in the field. And it turns out, that response is no accident.

We want it to be a quality meal that we provide to them. We don’t know if that’s going to be their last meal.

 –Stephen Moody, Director, Combat Feeding Directive

Watch host August Dannehl and fellow veteran Mike Williams, currently the Executive Chef of West Hollywood restaurant Norah, transform the military’s utilitarian ration MRE into a mouthwatering “Jambalaya Risotto with Duo of Duck.” 

Meals Ready to Eat can be seen on KCET in Southern California, on Link TV Nationwide (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410), and online at KCET.org.

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