When you think of military cuisine, four star food isn't exactly what comes to mind (they call it a mess hall for a reason), but a group of Army soldiers are proving that just because they're in combat doesn't mean they can't whip up an herb-crusted rabbit tenderloin or a strawberry rhubarb tart with lavender honey ice cream.
Portfolio caught up with a team of American soldiers who are preparing to ship overseas for a very different kind of a mission, a gourmet call to arms, if you will: the International Culinary Olympics. It's a yearly competition that takes place from October 19 to 22 which pits countries against each other in a cooking contest, and it happens to have a military division.
This year 10 active-duty American soldiers will compete against other servicemen from across the globe. The challenge: prepare a three course meal for 150 people in just three-and-a-half hours, plus seven three-course meals which showcase artistic talent. The conditions: a mobile field unit and only limited access to equipment like pressure cookers and generators. And you thought Michael Symon had it bad. Oh, and since they operate as soldiers first, the team starts with 20 service members but gets cut down to 10 as various units are shipped overseas before making it to Erfurt, Germany, for the competition.
The team takes the culinary challenge seriously and they've got a reputation to uphold, having won 400 medals since 1976. "Some people don't think playing with food is respectable because we are a country at war," says 36-year old Sergeant First Class Rene Marquis, a Culinary Institute of America graduate and team captain. "If we were to withdraw because of the war, it would be a win for someone else," he says. We agree. Go for the gold, Team USA!
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