MEALS READY TO EAT will premiere tomorrow night, Wednesday, November 8 at 8:30 p.m. PT on KCET
By: Judy Shields
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 11/6/2017 – The military is just my opportunity to connect it to my life and my experiences, but to tell stories that most people don’t know that we have unturned around the world. We try to find stories that nobody knows about, we had to broadcast it.” August Dannehl, Executive Producer and Host of Meals Ready To Eat told The Hollywood Times during a telephone interview.
Meals Ready to Eat debut season showcases the surprising foodie culture and gourmet culinary practices of the military-veteran community. The new series is produced, written, directed and hosted by veterans and comes to KCET from military-veteran media brand We Are The Mighty.
MEALS READY TO EAT will premiere this Wednesday, November 8 at 8:30 p.m. PT on KCET in Southern California and 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV Nationwide (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410).
Navy veteran, food aficionado and show host August Dannehl goes behind-the-scenes into the vibrant world of military food operations, from gourmet recipes developed inside military dining halls to a Marine veteran who utilizes his military experience to command a first-class kitchen.
Directed and co-written with Dannehl by award-winning filmmaker and US Army combat veteran Kyle Hausmann-Stokes, the series also features interviews and cooking demos with key Los Angeles chefs and food influencers including Mike Williams (Norah), Neal Fraser (Redbird), Mei Lin (Bravo’s Top Chef), Holly Jivin (The Bazaar at SLS), Tim Hollingsworth (Otium) and mixologist
Matt Seigel (The Nice Guy).
The interview with Host August Dannehl:
THT: How did this new show get it’s start?
AD: “About two years ago now, I have always been interested in food. I was in the Navy for six years and when I got out I was in kind of a cross roads. I was either going to go to the Kona Institute of America and probably have to spend a year in a professional kitchen before that or I was going to go to NYU Film School. NYU Film School was kind of like a dream since I was a kid. I ended up deciding to go to that school and got on the track to become a filmmaker. I decided that I can make movies for a living and I can still cook for people on the side, but I couldn’t do it the other way around.”
“The whole idea behind the new show is gourmet, whole-cuisine idea in the military. The show is about people and people coming together and where their culture takes them in food. Whether it’s an ancient 4,000 year old recipe on an island like Guam or olive oil that brings people together in the west bank, it’s really about people and the food they share.”
“When I got to We Are The Mighty three years ago, this was the start of the company and my job was to come up with ideas for videos, like digital videos. I have always been obsessed with food shows. I was brought up with Bobby Flay and The Food Network. I actually was on a food network show called “All-Star Academy” for a season a couple of years ago. Taken by how you can cinematically tell a story through the vehicle of food, whether it is eating food or food in different cultures around the world. There was nothing for food in the military and the food was known as ‘bad.’ I wanted to change that because being in the Navy, the military in general, is an opportunity for young people to travel the world and I wanted to harness that and put that into a show. That was the original idea, it that became the show that we have now.”
THT: I was wondering how being in the Navy as a former Nuclear Reactor Electrician led you to your career in film and food.
AD: “Not quite a lot of overlap. I will tell you this, there are certain things I learned about physics that helped me in the kitchen. Like heat transfer. A huge portion of my curriculum was learning about the physics of how heat gets transferred from one metal to another. From fire onto metal, and how heat is like a fluid that goes from one material to another. That is a huge part of running a nuclear reactor. I looked into the Navy because of 911 and I wanted to get to a place where I could sink my teeth into an education and I wasn’t there at 18.”
“There was a couple of reason and once I figured out that there was this job of being a nuclear reactor on an aircraft carrier, I naively thought that would bring me around the world. I really only saw a lot of the ocean, basically on a floating city with no reason to port. I was in a floating city. Cooking for my friends for the holidays, because we couldn’t go home, built more love for cooking for people and hearing their responses on that.”
THT: When did you first cook something and what was it?
AD: “Man, the funny story about that. My Mom never allowed me into the kitchen. She was an amazing cook, she is a Turkish woman who really knows how to spice everything. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, until she remarried, there were times we actually had to go to the food bank. She really knew how to take weird ingredients and reinvent them and make them interesting.”
“It made me long to try it and to impress her. I probably made a sandwich and experimented with different types of sauces. What kind of sauce or vinegar can I use with this sandwich.”
THT: What is the coolest thing you learned from doing these shows?
AD: “A lot of food things and especially cooking with these amazing chefs in LA. I have learned the tricks of the trade. One thing that I assumed at the beginning of this journey, and it would prove to be true is that food really is a unifier. Food can bring people together, it doesn’t matter about your background. If you can sit down and have a meal together or say farm together, you can bring food to one another.”
” Our ultimate goal, in any branch of the military, is to keep peace in the world, sometimes you have to fight wars to do that. But going around the world and learning about these stories of peace through a military lens, food is so powerful. I have this line ‘food is the intepicist of war,’ if you can break bread together and bring people together, then we realize we are all the same. Food is a world unifier.”
THT: Did you have any favorite foods from the shows?
AD: “We visited Okinawa and there is a story about a thing called Taco Rice. It’s like Japanese white rice that gets slathered with Americanized taco ingredients, bright yellow cheddar cheese, ground beef and shredded lettuce. My favorite food is clean sushi, very refined fish and rice, there is a history to that. The history of why a sushi chef becomes a sushi chef. Eating that was a whole experience and that was I would say my favorite because it had a story with it. It was an actual surprise when I stuck my spoon into it and it wasn’t what I expected but that is what the show is all about. Telling stories that not a lot of people would expect from the title.”
THT: Where do you see yourself in five years?
AD: “I went to film school to be a director, I wanted to tell a story and tell them on as big of a stage as possible. Hopefully ‘We Are The Mighty,’ a company that I am a part of and very close to, grows and it has been growing and I have been growing with it. We look to make feature films, documentaries and scripted shows. Hopefully still telling stories on a bit of a grander scale.”
Chefs featured on Meals Ready to Eat Series
Mike Williams didn’t serve as a military chef but as a field radio operator in the Marine Corps. After learning his passion for cooking, Mike quickly climbed the ranks and is now the executive chef at NORAH, a contemporary American eatery in West Hollywood, CA.
His palette has evolved since his days in the Corps but, as Mike will tell you himself, some of his fondest military memories have something to do with an MRE.
Wed., Nov. 8 – Episode One “Natick and Fort Lee”:
Meet the scientists and chefs working to ensure the health and wellbeing of our nation’s finest, even as they are challenged by the toughest terrains and harshest conditions in the world. Watch host August Dannehl and fellow veteran Mike Williams, currently the Executive Chef of West Hollywood restaurant Norah, transform the military’s utilitarian ration MRE into a mouthwatering “Jambalaya Risotto with Duo of Duck.”
Neal Fraser has spent years honing his skills as a dedicated chef and restaurateur. He’s opened an impressive selection of successful restaurants and eateries featuring Modern American cuisines, ranging from Fritzi’s casual hotdogs in the Farmer’s Market to the decadent dining at Redbird and Vibiana in DTLA. Chef Fraser learned from the best, and thanks to is unceasing in his mission to provide incredible flavors and dining experiences.
Wed., Nov. 22 – Episode Three “CIA and Petit Trois”:
Walk the halls of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) located just across the Hudson River from West Point. Spend time with Chef Ludo Lefebvres’ lieutenant, Will Marquardt, Army veteran and Chef de Cuisine at celebrated French bistro Petit Trois in Hollywood. Host August Dannehl joins Top Chef Master and CIA veteran Neal Fraser, currently the owner of downtown L.A. restaurant Redbird, to demonstrate a simple yet refined technique that can result in a gastronomic work of art.
Matt Seigel is one of the leading mixologists both in LA and in NYC. Before becoming the owner and chief operator of In The Spirit Of Hospitality, Seigel – an LA native – spent three years in the Big Apple working at Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad. He has a passion for taking ingredients out of the kitchen and into his drinks.
Wed., Nov. 15 – Episode Two “Darling Farm and 10th Mountain Whiskey Brigade”:
Visit former Army Ranger Jon Darling’s farm and 10th Mountain Whiskey, a craft distillery that honors the legacy of the daring World War II Army division. West Hollywood’s The Nice Guy Mixologist Matt Seigel and host August Dannehl toast the military’s valor by making a “Lamb-Infused Whiskey Cocktail” and a “Braised Lamb Belly with Sour Cherry Compote.”
Chef Mei Lin was born in China, raised in Detroit and earned the title of Top Chef in 2014. She won her episode on Esquire’s Knife Fight, and has contributed some of her recipes to Oprah’s cookbook. Mei’s no stranger to blending cultures and cuisines, she’s been traveling the world researching for a new restaurant, and frankly, we’re all excited to see what she’s going to bring to the table.
Wed., Nov. 29 – Episode Four “Okinawa and Guam”:
Travel across the Pacific to Okinawa and Guam where the U.S. military has been a strong influence for decades. Host August Dannehl and Top Chef winner Mei Lin explore the fusion of Asian and American flavors with her “Island Congee with Coconut Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder.”
A native of Savannah, Georgia, Holly Jivin pursued her passion for the culinary arts at The Art Institute of Atlanta, before relocating to Los Angeles to help open The Bazaar by José Andrés in Beverly Hills in 2008. Today, she leads her culinary team in flawlessly executing Chef José Andrés’ eccentric vision, and bringing innovative, playful and flavorful dishes to the table.
Wed., Dec. 6 – Episode Five “Coast Guard and Philly”:
Food can be a strong source of comfort and enabler of camaraderie as expressed by Coast Guard cook Arianna Gunn and South Philadelphia Fire Department resident chef and Marine veteran Bill Joerger. Chef de Cuisine Holly Jivin, who leads a team of more than 30 people at The Bazaar by José Andrés at the Beverly Hills SLS, prepares the restaurant’s signature interpretation of a “Philly Cheesesteak.”
Chef Tim Hollingsworth’s restaurant, Otium in Downtown LA was inspired by the latin word meaning to socialize and is Tim’s opportunity to share a piece of his life with the people that come in for a meal.
Raised in Texas and trained all over the world, Chef Tim’s resume includes running the kitchen as Chef De Cuisine of The French Laundry and placing sixth out of 24 of the most prominent chefs in the world at the highly-regarded Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest.
Wed., Dec. 13 – Episode Six “Israel”:
Journey to Nablus in The West Bank and the streets of Tel Aviv in search of food that brings people together. Tim Hollingsworth, former chef de cuisine for Thomas Keller’s Michelin-starred restaurant The French Laundry and now Executive Chef at downtown L.A. restaurant Otium, cooks up a “Dry-aged Beef Tartare with Yogurt Mint Bulgur” inspired by his wife of Palestinian and Iraqi descent.
Join the conversation on social media using #MRE. Tell all your friends about this new food show, especially all your military friends and family!
ABOUT KCETLINK MEDIA GROUP
KCETLink Media Group is a national independent, nonprofit, digital and broadcast network that provides high-quality, culturally diverse programming designed to engage the public in innovative, entertaining and transformative ways. With a commitment to independent perspectives, smart global entertainment, local communities, and opportunities for engagement and social action, KCETLink depicts people and the world through a lens unavailable elsewhere in U.S. media. A viewer-supported 501(c)(3) organization, KCETLink content is distributed nationally via satellite on Link TV DIRECTV channel 375 and DISH Network channel 9410 and on KCET in Southern and Central California via broadcast and cable, as well as through various digital delivery systems. For additional information about KCET and Link TV productions, web-exclusive content, programming schedules and community events, please visit kcet.org or linktv.org. Select programming from KCET and Link TV is also available for streaming on Apple TV, Amazon and Roku platforms.
ABOUT WE ARE THE MIGHTY
We Are The Mighty (WATM) is the leading multi-platform media brand engaging America’s military, a loyal group who comprise one-third of the country (114 million). WATM’s team of veterans and media professionals authentically capture the voice of this community with original and branded content, experiences and events that entertain, break down stereotypes, inspire and celebrate the spirit of service. WATM and the groups we work with including companies, nonprofits, and veteran service organizations, among others strive to have a positive and meaningful impact on the community we serve.