Officially, an MRE is a "meal ready to eat" for the military. These meals are so unappetizing, though, that they've earned the nickname "meals rejected by everyone." Chef Chuck George, videographer Jimmy Pham and photographer Henry Hargreaves teamed up to make these meals, common to militaries around the world, look less reject-able by plating them like food porn, or something you'd see in a Michelin starred restaurant.
"Chuck is the son of an American serviceman and he grew up around MREs," said Hargreaves when I spoke with him on the phone about the project.
Recognizing that the worst food is given to the bravest people, George, Pham and Hargreaves set out to elevate these MREs to "food porn-type status." Using MREs from different countries, they created plates that are visually worthy of being served at a high-end restaurant or bragged about on Instagram.
MRE from China
"Ultimately, this was a fun project. We're not trying to change the military food process," said Hargreaves. But, he added, people can learn from this art by considering what servicemen actually eat. "The way you feed someone says a lot about how you respect them." This project made him sympathize with soldiers from other armies, like those in China.
MRE from France
The project also shows how a country's food culture is reflected in their MREs. China had an MRE with noodles. France has an MRE that includes paté, cheese and biscuits.
MRE from Lithuania
This is the majority of a meal for a Lithuanian soldier. It looks appetizing, but it looks like only an appetizer. Is this really enough to satisfy a soldier?
MRE from United States
If, as Hargreaves commented, how you feed someone shows how you respect them, the United States needs to do better — at least as evidenced by these photos.
Unless that oh-so-whimsically named First Strike Nutritious Energy Bar is packed with protein, there doesn't seem to be a lot in this main course MRE from the United States. Here's what George, Pham and Hargreaves created from what they had to work with.
In this video, take a look at the trio at work creating these photos of MREs that look like they could be served at a Michelin-starred restaurant: