EDISON, NJ - Edison’s Pines Manor was transformed into a firehouse kitchen on Monday as teams from 24 professional fire departments across New Jersey showed off their cooking skills at the NJ FMBA’s eighth annual Cooked and Uncorked Food and Wine Festival.
The event, which raised over $50,000 that will be split between the Saint Barnabas Burn Center and the NJ FMBA Foundation, was attended by more than 1,000 guests that were treated to an array of foods, drinks and other goodies.
According to Eddie Donnelly, the president of the 5,000 member union that represents firefighters, EMTs and dispatchers, the annual event “is a special way for our members to connect with each other, show off their talents, and raise money for some very important causes.”
“The Saint Barnabas Burn Center and the other organizations this event supports share the commitment our members have to serving New Jersey residents, often at their most difficult times, and we are proud to partner with them all,” Donnelly continued.
While several well-known New Jersey restaurants and drinks distributors also showed off their specialties it was dishes prepared by firefighters in three categories: firehouse, gourmet, and dessert, that were in highest demand. Judges, including NJ 101.5 radio personality Bill Spadea and former New York Giants Bart Oates and David Diehl, took turns sampling the dishes before assigning them scores that would ultimately determine the winner in each of the three categories.
For those in attendance that weren’t counting calories a third category was added to this year’s festivities with Rahway FMBA Local 33 delivering a no bake chocolate cheesecake accompanied by a chocolate martini, enough to win recognition as the best dessert of the night.
Calling his teammates, and the men and women he serves with on the Paterson Fire Department, “brothers and sisters,” Sean Duffy told TAPinto Paterson that “when there’s downtime in a firehouse it’s often spent around the kitchen.” Those who serve in the fire service rely on each other, Duffy said, making the time they share a meal together important “family time.”
As the two-time returning champions, the Paterson FMBA Local 2 team, led by firefighter Jason Macones, served up a smoked baby back rib sandwich with a baked bean bourbon spread and topped with bacon jam and pickled onion, a creation he perfected for a recent Super Bowl party. While the creation won the rave reviews of judges and guests alike the team, serving their meal with a concoction they called “The Hamilton” in homage to Paterson’s earliest forefather, had to settle with third place but vowed to be back next year ready to return to their winning ways.
Proving their own cooking mettle, and plating hundreds of servings of mushroom bacon risotto with cajun shrimp and lamb chops, the team from Maplewood FMBA Local 25 took the trophy in the “firehouse category” while their neighbors from South Orange Local 24 were the “gourmet category” winners with a duck confit stuffed ravioli with bacon and English pea puree.
The final, and perhaps most coveted, award of the night, the “People’s Choice” award, voted on by attendees, went to Union FMBA Local 46 and their Australian lamb chops topped with mint apple chutney and served alongside a spinach and mixed green salad.
As the event drew to a close and guests filed out the doors a question came from retired Nutley firefighter John Hundin reference to the delicacies he had just sampled, “how do they top these dishes next year?”