SALEM — The Culinary Arts team from Pinkerton Academy won the inaugural MRE Challenge Nov. 20 at Salem High School, taking home the coveted Granite Skillet.
The cooking competition organized by the New Hampshire Department of Education and the New Hampshire Army National Guard teamed up Guardsmen with high school culinary students from six New Hampshire high school Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs.
The teams created gourmet dishes using the ingredients from military-issue MREs (Meals Ready to Eat.)
The 2,000-calorie packs are meant to keep troops fed in the field, but are not known for their culinary excellence.
Competing schools included Derry’s Pinkerton Academy, Hudson’s Alvirne High School, Nashua High School, Milford High School, Salem High School and the Manchester School of Technology.
Guardsmen have been working with the student chefs for months to familiarize them with MREs, but none of the competitors knew in advance which meals would serve as their ingredients. The teams also had to incorporate a secret ingredient — plantains — revealed to them during their 45-minute cooking time.
The Pinkerton team’s winning dish was plantain ratatouille with garlic bread.
The MRE Challenge involved students across several CTE programs. MST’s Culinary Arts team won the appetizer cooking competition. Pinkerton’s marketing team took first place in the poster contest. MST marketing students won the logo design competition. Teams from the school’s video production programs also created commercials to promote the event. Salem High School’s video production students live-steamed the event online and to an audience in the Salem High School auditorium.
“What an impressive display of culinary talent,” said New Hampshire Adjutant Gen. David Mikolaities. “The students were focused and disciplined, a great reflection on their respective teachers and schools. They are well led. Equally impressive was the student-led video production crew. We look forward to making this an annual event.”“Our first MRE Challenge was a huge success, and I want to thank the Guard and our CTE centers for working together across several programs to create such a great learning environment for these students,” said Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. “We’re hoping to expand this to more schools next year when Pinkerton puts the Granite Skillet back up for grabs.”