Area chefs are preparing for war.
Prep knives will replace bayonets and side plates will substitute for mess kits as celebrity chefs compete in “War Fare: Chow Challenge,” an historically-themed cooking competition on April 30 at the National World War I Museum.
During the war, homefront “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” were encouraged to unite the general public and conserve resources for troops serving “over there.” In the trenches meal options became increasing limited, making hungry soldiers yearn for parcels from home containing chocolate or tinned sardines. Frustrated camp cooks foraged for vegetables, nettles and other local foodstuffs to help stretch the meager rations.
According to the online journal “Military History Monthly,” each battalion was assigned two industrial-sized vats for food preparation. “The problem was that every type of meal was readied within these containers … over time, everything started to taste the same.”
Like their historic counterparts, chefs from four Kansas City restaurants will attempt to create palatable dishes from limited resources, but event attendees will dine better than the average doughboy.
Prior to the cook-off, competing chefs from Affäre, Grünauer, Room 39 and Webster House will each provide a complimentary World War I-themed amuse-bouche during the 5:30 p.m. cocktail hour with cash bar. At 6:30 p.m., the chef knives come out and the battle begins.
Competing chefs will form two teams representing the Central Powers and the Allied Forces, according to Mike Vietti, marketing communications manager for the museum. Teams will have a fairly standard food pantry and a specific ration kit from their respective side of the war. Each team will create an appetizer, entrée and dessert to be judged by volunteers drawn from the audience. The winning team will be awarded a Chow Challenge Cup trophy featuring an actual WWI mess kit.
Noted food historian Andrea Broomfield will share WWI food history and discuss how “The War To End All Wars” not only changed the way we eat, but now inspires us to take a second look at our current dinner tables.
“I’m interested in making sure the audience understands that food wins or loses this war,” Broomfield said. “If you didn’t have an incredible amount of foresight to have your food policy figured out, there was no way to win this war.”
The event kicks off the museum’s new online exhibition “War Fare,” which examines food as a frequently overlooked aspect of the Great War. Go online starting April 30 attheworldwar.org
for the history behind wartime recipes and suggestions for serving them with a modern twist.
War Fare: Chow Challenge will be held at 5:30 p.m. on April 30 at the National World War I Museum, 100 W. 26th St.
Tickets cost $5 for non-members and are available at the National World War I Museum’swebsite
The event is free for museum members with registration at the museum’swebsite
Julienne Gehrer is a freelance writer, period cook and author of “In Season: Cooking Fresh from the Kansas City Farmers’ Market” available at ashgrovepress.com.