These firefighters don’t just put out flames — they use them to make duck confit-stuffed ravioli with bacon and English pea puree. That’s how South Orange Local 24 won the gourmet category during last year’s Cooked & Uncorked food and wine festival, which is coming up for the 9th time this month on Feb. 25 in Edison, NJ.

Hosted by the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, 22 New Jersey fire departments and the retirees union will show off their culinary skills that night for a good cause — proceeds will be donated to the NJ FMBA Foundation and the St. Barnabas Burn Foundation.

Contestants will try to create the best dish in one of three categories: firehouse cooking, gourmet cooking and — new this year — dessert.

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Eating together is important to firefighters, according Jay Lombardi, a Carteret firefighter and the annual event’s chair.

“Both the preparation and enjoyment of a meal, just like in a household, strengthens family bonds — that has a huge impact on firefighters when they respond to emergencies,” Lombardi said. “It’s not uncommon to be sitting down for a meal when the alarm goes off, sending us out on another emergency call. Knowing we’re coming back to the firehouse to a home-cooked meal also provides great comfort.” 

Cooked & Uncorked gives the men and women of the fire service a chance to show off some of their hidden talents, Lombardi said.

“If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing firehouse cooking before you’re going to be glad you came,” he said. “Imagine having your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant, then going to your next favorite restaurant and then a third. That gives you an idea of what your night at Cooked & Uncorked will be. Bring an empty stomach.”

Participating fire departments this year include Bayonne, Clifton, East Orange, Hamilton, Millburn, New Brunswick, Plainfield, South Orange, Belleville, Cranford, Hillside, Long Branch, Maplewood, Montclair, Morristown, Paterson, Roselle, Union, Elizabeth, Harrison, Linden and Rahway.

In addition to the cookoff entries, there will be several Garden State restaurants and beverage distributors offering tastes of local cuisine, beer, wine and liquor.

Guest judges will include retired New York Giants Bart Oates and David Diehl, as well as Mark Montenero, owner of Route 22 Autoland. Everyone in attendance will be able to vote for the evenings’s People’s Choice Award.

“The good-natured competition among the firehouses is always fun — they are cooking to win,” said Lombardi. “Of course, knowing that we are also having a positive impact on and making a difference for the Saint Barnabas Burn Center and the NJ FMBA Foundation also makes the night extra special.”

Last year, more than 1,000 people attended and $50,000 was raised to be split between the Saint Barnabas Burn Center and the NJ FMBA Foundation.

Cooked & Uncorked will take place at Pines Manor in Edison, NJ, on Monday, Feb. 25, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $60 in advance, $65 at the door.

Learn more and get tickets at cookedanduncorked.com.

Read more on NJ Flavor:

10 Ways to Enjoy Maple Sugaring in New Jersey This Month

In NJ Schools, Kids Who Choose Cooking Classes Learn Skills for a Lifetime

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