Upper Cape Tech students make MREs gourmet

Feb 3, 2023

Molly Petty, a junior at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School studying culinary arts, is used to mincing meat and vegetables.

However, she didn't mince words when describing the quality, or lackthereof, of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) given to U.S. Military personnel.

"It sucks," said Petty, of Falmouth.

At the SkillsUSA MRE Challenge held on Thursday, Jan. 26, Upper Cape Tech culinary arts students were tasked with making six MRE packs into a restaurant-quality appetizer, entree, dessert and drink.

"It was fun," Petty said. "A little stressful."

Juniors Dominic James, of Falmouth, and Andrew Norris, of Wareham, along with sophomore Alex Swierkowski, also of Wareham, came in third place overall.

Alex's father, Mark Swierkowski, is head chef and owner of Ella's Wood Burning Restaurant in East Wareham. Alex and his father share a love of cooking, and he enrolled in Upper Cape Tech's culinary arts program to follow his father's example.

"It's definitely a challenge," Morris said. "The thought process was purely, 'What can we do to make these the best we can possibly be?' We can add sugar, we can add salt. We did what we could."

Morris said that "thinking outside the box" propelled his team to third place. They made "PB&J with a twist" for their appetizer, a spicy beef taco with black beans for their entree and an apple pound cake for dessert.

The team consisting of Petty, junior Dominic James, also of Falmouth, and sophomore Nevaeh Fernandes, of Wareham, made beef teriyaki sticks for their appetizer. For their entree, they made a beef and bean taco with a side of scalloped potatoes. For dessert, they made Ranger Pudding, a dessert which soldiers have made out of MRE packets since the Vietnam War. It consists of powdered chocolate mixed in water, with various candies sprinkled in.

Their meal came in second place in the Military Taste Test.

"It was a bit of a shock and we were all very excited about it," Petty said.