America's Best Firehouse Chefs

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The nation's firemen bring some serious heat to the kitchen

Whipping up a tasty, economical meal for a huge group of firemen every night is no small task.

Many of the country’s bravest firemen are also excellent cooks. When they’re not responding to the calls that so often save our lives, they’re at the station pulling shifts and are required to budget, shop for, and make their own meals — usually for groups of 12 or more.

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It’s a big responsibility. In most cases, firefighters each chip in $6 to $12 to cover all of the day’s meals, and the person whose turn it is to cook that day has to run to the supermarket during their downtime, and then go to work and prep.

It’s little wonder then that in most firehouses, there’s at least one person who quickly earns a reputation for knowing not only how to stretch a dollar but how to spice meat for the grill, simmer a wine-based sauce, or heat rice to steamy perfection. Sometimes, these culinary stars grew up in homes where cooking was an art form passed down through the generations, but others developed skills out of the necessity of rotating shifts and the pressure of serving food to an audience all too happy to rib you when your latest dish is, well, less than edible.

We scoured the country to find the top firehouse cooks and chatted with them about their favorite recipes and best tips. After interviewing dozens of firemen in major hubs, we decided on those who had distinguished themselves not just in terms of the length of service as firemen (Rhett Blankenship, for example, has been with the Dallas-Fire Rescue department for 33 years), but also as cooks, whether they have won cooking competitions or just have as much experience cooking as they do fighting fires. Some have had the pleasure of working with famous chefs like Emeril Lagasse, while others have graduated from prestigious culinary schools and run their own food businesses. It's clear in the end, that these aren't just ordinary firemen — they're America's best firehouse chefs.