A Chef’s Artful Reimagining of Military Rations Reveals an Essential Principle of Good Food

Smears, dustings, foams, scatters, Pollock-esque spatters, stacks, squiggles, arrays, dots, clusters…these are the many variations of plate arrangements by creative chefs I witnessed during my long career as a food writer and stylist. This painterly visual trickery can be beautiful, and the way food is shaped and presented definitely impacts its flavor. But like a high design interior, it can be tiresome if taken too far, meaningful if used in the right context.

Henry Hargreaves

I LOVED seeing these Michelin-chef-esque visual devices applied to MREs, the unpalatable, needs-no-cooking Meals Ready to Eat that military troops are fed around the globe. Chef Chuck George, videographer Jimmy Pham, and photographer Henry Hargreaves scoured the world’s militaries for the ingredients for their challenge. Wrote Hargreaves:

…we wanted to reimagine the meals and plate...

…In essence, taking the worst food, provided to the bravest people and visually elevate it as if it were being served in one of the world’s most revered restaurants.


Henry Hargreaves

Above you can check out the raw materials George worked with from the USA, as well as China’s green, curiously condom-like packaging (below).

Henry Hargreaves

…George really made the stuff look appealing.

Henry Hargreaves

…The combinations are no more bizarre than any I’ve sampled in restaurants…

Henry Hargreaves

The question: does George’s thoughtful combinations and the presentation make them delicious? They certainly look more alive, something I learned many years ago when when I enjoyed wonderfully delicious dishes made by great home cooks with seriously poor-quality supermarket ingredients.

A really good cook can often transform the energy and flavor of even crappy ingredients.

It has much to do with the spirit with which they prepared it, and the care and generosity with which they served it. THAT transforms…

Henry Hargreaves


Check out George’s transformation on Russian, Lithuanian, South Korean and French MREs, here.

via My Modern Met

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