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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: November 3, 2005
No: 05-46

Chef Paul spices up Meals, Ready-to-Eat

NATICK, Mass. -- As part of the Combat Feeding Directorate’s (CFD) ongoing efforts to improve the quality of food for our nation’s servicemen and women, Chef Paul Prudhomme may bring his “good cooking, good eating, good living” philosophy to Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs).

Prudhomme, who goes by the name Chef Paul, is one of the nation’s best known chefs. He has appeared on several television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, and Late Night with David Letterman. His first cookbook, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Cooking, made The New York Times bestseller list. He also owns two restaurants, including the famous K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen located in New Orleans’ French quarter.

Chef Paul is the owner of, and the chef for, Magic Seasoning Blends. The company produces seasoning packets that enable home cooks to add Chef Paul’s beloved seasoning to their food. His barbecue and pizza spice packets have been tested and may be included in future versions of the MRE.

MREs were developed by CFD in the early 1980s. The CFD has since worked continuously to update the meals to provide optimum nutrition, improve taste, and to reflect the current preferences of servicemen and women. The meals meet the Office of the Surgeon General’s nutritional requirements and are packaged to withstand airdrop, rough handling, and temperature extremes. Items included in the MRE must be shelf stable for three years at 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to Judy Aylward, CFD senior food technologist, Chef Paul’s barbecue and pizza spice packets have been tested and meet the directorate’s stringent requirements and did well in the annual field test, which was held at Fort Bliss, Texas. All products that are field tested must score above 6 on a scale of 1 (extremely disliked) to 9 (extremely liked) in order to be recommended for inclusion in the MRE. MRE assemblers may opt to use Chef Paul’s product or a similar product that meets all the requirements.

Aylward briefed the field test results to the Joint Services Operation Ration Forum. The forum approved the packets for inclusion in MRE 27, which will be packed in 2007.

Chef Paul visited the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center here on Oct. 13. His visit was part of an MRE demonstration of new foods (called the “Cutting”) held at the Natick Conference Center. Hosted by Aylward, the “Cutting” was attended by food experts and scientists from industry, government, and the military.

During the meeting attendees tasted and evaluated the new MRE items, including meatballs with marinara sauce, chicken with dumplings, cornbread stuffing, fried rice, marble pound cake, Skittles (Wild Berry and Tropical flavors), Reese’s Pieces, apple butter, chunky peanut butter, green hot pepper sauces, and Chef Paul’s pizza and barbecue seasoning packets. The attendees also reviewed procurement documents to ensure scale-up production without problems.

Chef Paul tasted the new Chicken Dumpling MRE and said he was impressed with the appearance and moisture in the chicken, which he deemed very tender.

“The changes in MREs in the past 20 years are amazing. I am excited about the possibility of helping to make them even a little bit better in the future,” he stated.

Chef Paul also provided a cooking demonstration, during which he prepared pasta with cream and Tasso (smoked, spicy ham).

He said that he believes that good food can change a person’s mood, and that herbs and spices are key to making a meal better.

Servicemen and women aiding the Hurricane Katrina relief effort have already gotten a taste of Chef Paul’s great cooking. He has been helping out by feeding members of the Armed Services and other relief workers. During the chef’s visit to Natick, Shawn McBride, president and CEO of Magic Seasoning Blends, estimated that so far they have served about 20,000 meals.

Chef Paul stated, “If you cook good, people eat good. You are really sharing human love.”

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This page last updated on 23 January 2004.