Military chefs turn 'mystery meat' into gourmet meals

Posted at 5:57 PM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-02 21:05:16-04

During Speed Fest at Naval Air Station North Island, military chefs will be spicing things up with a Meal Ready-to-Eat, or MRE, challenge.

Troops eat them in the field. They are known to be edible and notorious for getting old fast.

"It's kind of mystery meat MREs," Sandy Demunnik said with laughter.

Another MRE mystery is how they can still be edible after five years.

"Pretty much every MRE tastes the same," she added. "It's got a very cafeteria smell from like the 1980's."

Before doing public affairs for Navy Base Coronado, Demunnik was an active duty service member.

"You're like 'Oh, this isn't bad', and then by the next day you're constipated," she said. "It's true!"

She noticed Marines making swaps to come up with new combos.

"They would gourmet it up," DeMunnik explained. "They would create these awesome little meals."

It is how she came up with the MRE Challenge with a celebrity judge. Twenty service members will use two MREs to make a main course, an appetizer and a dessert.

Culinary Specialist 1, Evan Kern, is in charge of cooking for big events on base.

"You've got to make the best of it because that's what you have," he explained.

He gave us a sneak peek of the challenge by whipping up penne pasta with vegetable sausage, a cornbread chili pie and a gourmet dessert.

"I took chocolate pudding and some instant coffee and blended it together a little bit," Kern explained. "I used the brown sugar tart, there are some pretzel crumbles and an orange and cranberry crumble on top as well."

"Whether it's true or it's an urban myth, this gum is said to make things flow again after you eat an MRE," DeMunnik said with a chuckle. "I'm not going to confirm or deny that."

You can watch the challenge and taste the masterpieces on September 17 at Naval Air Station North Island.

Speed Fest is free and open to everyone.