Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

At Firefighters' Cook-Off, the Best Burger Wins

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

At Firefighters' Cook-Off, the Best Burger Wins

Article excerpt

PARAMUS -- They're used to beads of sweat crawling down their necks in the heat, as smoke rises into the sky.

But the mission on Sunday afternoon as 30 firefighters gathered in the Paramus Fairway parking lot wasn't to douse flames, but instead use them to grill ribs, burgers and chicken at the fourth annual Firefighters Food Face-Off.

They took the task of impressing the judges and the hundreds of grocery shoppers who stopped by seriously enough. Each department put its own twist to the slabs of meat supplied by Fairway. They also bought their own ingredients with $250 gift cards.

Tom Shortway, a Ridgewood firefighter and his team's head chef, flipped the Asian barbecue ribs on the grill with tongs. His department competed in previous years but had never won.

"We're trying to put in a better performance," Shortway said. The ribs were seasoned with ginger, garlic, soy sauce and brown sugar, he said.

The flaming racks lay beside chicken skewers covered in peanut sauce.

Park Ridge Fire Department was the team to beat, as the winner of the previous three face-offs.

They made a Cuban-style burger with ground pork, beef, cheese, pickles, mustard, cumin and Tabasco. They used tarragon, oregano and pineapple for the chicken.

For the ribs, they used chili flakes. "It has a little kick to it, yet it has some sweetness to it from the brown sugar," said Mark Eisen, known as "Cookey" to his fellow firefighters, for whom he cooks when they meet on Thursdays.

Looking at the other teams, he said: "The guys really went home and did their homework. I'm a little nervous this year."

The four fire departments don't often respond to fires together because, as Hackensack Firefighter Jason Conkle put it, "We're separated by too many towns." But some know one another through members who work full time as firefighters in one town and volunteer in another. …

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