State Fair

State Fair challenges military chefs to turn ready-to-eat meals into gourmet cuisine

How food inspectors make sure you eat safely at the California State Fair

Every year the California State Fair goes through a series of checks to make sure the food you eat is safe.
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Every year the California State Fair goes through a series of checks to make sure the food you eat is safe.

Expert foodies probably wouldn’t be too excited to chow down on ready-to-eat military field rations, but a challenge at the California State Fair aims to turn them into gourmet dining experiences as teams compete to impress celebrity judges.

On Thursday the fair invites military personnel and veterans in for free with valid identification. And to celebrate Military and Veteran Appreciation Day, the fair is holding its sixth annual MRE Cooking Challenge.

The Meal, Ready-to-Eat, also known as MRE, are “individual rations, self-contained in lightweight packaging that can be warmed without a fire or stove, originally designed for the United States Military to consume during combat or similar field conditions without food facilities,” according to Ready Store, which sells them to the public.

Hosted by CalVet and the California Military Department, the challenge will feature three rounds where military cooks from several branches will team up with veterans to attempt to transform MREs into “culinary delights,” according to a press release.

The meals will then be judged by a panel of celebrities on taste, presentation, skill and showmanship, the release reads. Teams will have 30 minutes to prepare the meal.

Celebrity judges were not announced in the press release, but there will be a few special guests in attendance, including World War II pilot Bud Anderson, Women Veterans Alliance founder and director Melissa Washington and John Busterud, a member of the California Veterans Board.

The events will be held in “The Kitchen,” which is in Cal Expo Building B.

  • First qualifying round: Noon-1:30 p.m.

  • Second qualifying round: 3-4:30 p.m.

  • Final round: 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Family members of military personnel and veterans will be expected to pay normal fair entry fees.

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