Pathways culinary arts students take on the MRE Cook Off Challenge

Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 5:34 PM CST
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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Taking one flavor and turning it into another. It could be the cooking equivalent of fitting a round peg into a square hole, but Pathways culinary students were more than ready to take on the challenge.

The kitchen at Pathways Innovation Center became a competitive yet exciting environment Tuesday as students in the culinary arts three course took on a unique challenge. The Wyoming National Guard provided these students with made ready to eat meals for the annual MRE Cook Off Challenge.

“This event is always just a fun day. It’s a little creative and exciting they get to come up with new things and it makes them think in a different way which is really nice for them to come back in the kitchen afterwards and think wait maybe we could do this a little different,” said Torey Berdan, the culinary instructor at Pathways Innovation Center.

Before the cook off truly begins, students partnered up and randomly selected a MRE packet. These are the same ones the National Guard receives in the field. They can range anywhere from breakfast to dinner. Students take the packet and make a meal of their own.

“It uses the ingredients in the package that we got but it doesn’t make the food that we were supposed to make. Like we got vegetarian pasta salad an we’re making breakfast taquitos out of it,” said Brycen Ungrichd, a junior at Natrona County High School.

Students had a little over an hour to dice, mix, or fry their creative masterpiece. They were instructed to use all items in their packets and they stepped up to the challenge. Members of the Wyoming National Guard judged the finished product.

“Taste testing is always a fun time. Some of the meals that come out are definitely worthy of being on a menu somewhere here in town,” said Tim Ockler, a Wyoming National Guard recruiter.

With culinary arts being a booking industry in the country and Wyoming, this course is popular among students. Some students just enjoy cooking while others want to be restaurant owners in the future. Berdan says she’s glad competitions like the cook off can give students the chance to explore this career.

“It’s fun to be able to give an opportunity to all these students to have that skill growth but the life skills that comes along with it,” said Berdan.

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