Can military sustenance become scrumptious? Can drab be transformed into delectable?
See for yourself at CalVet’s Seventh Annual MRE Cooking Challenge, Thursday July 18 at the California State Fair, an event that promises to be tastefully done. The Challenge pairs military veterans and noted local chefs as they look to impress a panel of culinary experts by turning those Meal-Ready-To-Eat packages – often dreaded by folks in the Armed Forces – into gourmet dinners. Or at least into something close.
Considered to be the marquee event of the State Fair’s Military and Veteran Appreciation Day, the extravaganza begins at noon in Cal Expo’s Cooking Theater, California Building B.
At noon, to whet your appetite for the upcoming challenge, several members of the California National Guard will take turns in introducing the veterans and celebrity chefs, provide a brief culinary history of the MRE, and host a trivia session. You will also be able to meet with the participants and sample bites from an MRE, getting a taste of what our military men and women dine on in the field.
At 3 p.m., Deborah Hoffman of CalVet will be the colorful analyst during the second course. Chefs will vie for three randomly chosen MREs placed in the pantry, or whatever remains. Using their culinary skills and available ingredients, attendees should – hopefully – be treated to edible works of art.
Scheduled at 6 p.m., the greatly-anticipated main course will be served up by V101 radio personality Big Al Sams. The veterans and chefs will team up to complete their mission: To turn MREs into appealing and tasty meals, using their skills and available ingredients. Judges will pick the winner based upon taste, presentation, skill, and showmanship.
Awards will be presented at 7:15 p.m.
This year’s field of competitors includes four veterans: Bryce Palmer, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and chef at Mulvaney’s B&L; Michael Hedin, U.S. Marine Corps, member education unit manager at CalPERS; Rob Gomez, U.S. Army, a California Highway Patrol sergeant; and Shannon Terry, California National Guard and a program director for the non-profit Work for Warriors
Palmer will be joined by the other two celebrity chefs: Jon Clemons of The Porch and Aaron Anderson of Purple Pig Eats.