Allez cuisine! See how our Vets@ ERG transformed MRE meals into mouthwatering morsels in our Iron Chef contest

Veterans bring countless unique skills to our Dropbox table. Problem-solving? Yep. Perseverance? Check. Leadership? Of course. But one additional skill they really showed off during Veteran’s Appreciation Month was their creativity — particularly in cooking!

As part of the month’s festivities, we hosted the 2nd Annual MRE (Meal Ready-To-Eat) Iron Chef Contest, in which participants took plain old MREs and presented them in true Iron Chef fashion. Many of our veterans were already familiar with MREs, which are pre-rationed meals available to active service members in regions in which they do not have access to organized food facilities. They can be life-saving sources of nutrition — but they’re not exactly gourmet, which is why we challenged each other to turn them into something spectacular. Contestants were allowed to use just one additional ingredient in their quest to make their MRE look like it didn’t come out of a pack.

Take a look at our winners below!

Semper Pi | Best Dessert

Ann Marie — Sr. Program Manager, Global Recruiting Programs

Chocolate Protein Powder Mug Cake

  • Dessert 1 — We combined the chocolate protein drink mix with the instant coffee into a microwave mug cake recipe. I then combined the mango peach applesauce from the MRE with the strawberry jam packet, added tangerine juice and caster sugar and reduced down to make a fruit sauce.
  • Dessert 2 — We used the chocolate protein powder again to make a second mug cake, this time with a peanut butter lava center. I then combined the pretzels, salted caramel, chocolate syrup, and cream to make a chocolate salted caramel pretzel topping. This one did not last even five minutes with my kids.

Warfighter Approved! | Best in Show (Savory)

Michael Small — Strategic Customer Success Manager

Chili & Bean Empanadas with Chili Nut Bombs

  • I deconstructed the peanut butter filled crackers (basically combos), took the strained chili sauce from the chili and combined it with peanut butter, a crumble of the crackers and ‘combos’ crackers to create Chili Nut Bombs. I then air-fried them and the result was a delicate outer skin with a spicy yet sweet center which mimicked the mouth feel of a bean. I added this to the chili filling for the empanadas — it added a delightful savory and sweet aspect to the filling.
  • I then combined the cornbread and the ‘cheese’ into balls. I rolled these in the crumble from the cracker remainders of the peanut butter crackers. I air-fried them until warm and crisp, and added the espresso dip associated with the freeze-dried coffee. I even added a bit of the lemon-lime drink mix to the cornbread balls to add a lightening spark.

Most Pilfered | All of it rocks or something! Your meal is the right combination of all the good stuff

Jenna Hall — Emerging Talent Recruiter

Shredded beef & spicy cheese pinwheels with a stew gravy dipping sauce

  • I received the Menu 9 Beef Stew MRE and used puff pastry dough as my added ingredient. I used a strainer to separate the beef chunks, potatoes, peas and carrot (there was only 1). I used some water to rinse off the ingredients. I reserved the water and stew gravy and reduced on the stove. I then mashed the potatoes with a little of the stew gravy to make a potato paste. I mixed the cheese spread I received in my MRE with the packet of Tabasco sauce. I warmed the beef chunks then shredded with a fork. I laid out a sheet of puff pastry and spread the potato paste, then layered with the spicy cheese mixture and then topped with the shredded beef from the stew. I then rolled the dough into a log and sliced to make pinwheels and baked.

Vanilla Pound Cake with Dalgona Coffee Foam

  • I cut the Vanilla pound cake into circles and reconstituted the non-dairy powdered creamer packet with some water and a little bit of the lemon-lime powdered drink mix. I then soaked the pound cake in the the creamer. I made dalgona coffee by whipping the instant coffee, sugar and water to make a foam I used that as a layer between the pound cakes and on top. I then used a microplane to grate some of the cinnamon gum in the MRE.

MRE Iron Chef

Josh Leskar — Growth Marketing Manager

Main Course: Rice and Beans “Arancini,” Beef Taco Frittata, and Cheese Spread “Puree” for dipping

Dessert: Mixed Nut Thumbprint Cookies with Chocolate Espresso Glaze

  • I got the #6 “Beef Taco” kit and used eggs as my added ingredient.
  • Arancini — I used the rice and beans package that came with the kit as is, and formed it into little balls. I baked the soft tortillas until they dried out, ground them up, and used those as my breadcrumbs. Then, I dipped the rice and bean balls in the ground up tortillas, then into the egg, and back into the tortillas. Baked at 350 for about 20 minutes.
  • Frittata: I whisked four eggs and folded in the taco meat packet, baked in a rectangular cake pan for about 30 min, and cut into squares.
  • Cookies: My kit came with trail mix! I separated out the nuts (hazelnuts, peanuts, a few almonds and pecans) and ground them up into a coarse “nut butter” and mixed in half an egg and the sugar packet. Put one of the M&Ms in the middle, and baked at 350 for 10 min. Then, I put the non-dairy creamer and the coffee with a touch of boiling water and a single M&M to create a paste/glaze, and put that over the cookies once they cooled. (Then it looked too cute so I used some of the powder and a raisin from the trail mix to create a smiley face because…LOOK AT IT! :)
  • Having never had an MRE before, I was honestly impressed with how “not sweet” everything was! I was imagining things loaded with sugar, but was really impressed. Honestly everything tasted pretty solid (though I didn’t try the drink powder). Sort of like many packaged foods I’ve had camping.
  • Prep was really fun and challenging. It’s super hard to jazz it up (and definitely couldn’t have done a fraction of these with just the heating packet, obviously!) It also made me realize how many ingredients we use every day.
  • Taste was overall really good, though the cookies definitely could’ve used more sugar!
  • Would absolutely recommend my meal to anyone (obviously…) and would recommend the experience to everyone!

We’re lucky to have so many skilled veterans on our teams at Dropbox, and hope we get to try their mouthwatering creations sometime soon — but we’re always looking for more! You can explore job openings specific to veteran skill sets here.




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