Stuff your face with delicious delicacies engineered by some of Summit County’s finest firefighters on Saturday, June 20, at the Viking Firefighter Cook-Off, part of the 22nd annual Colorado BBQ Challenge on Main Street in Frisco.
Firefighters from all three Summit County fire departments — Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District, Copper Mountain Fire Department and Lake Dillon Fire Rescue — are using the competition as an opportunity to raise funds to offset medical costs for firefighter paramedic Jason White, who was recently diagnosed with a very rare form of neuroendocrine carcinoma.
The firehouses have agreed that no matter who wins the $1,000 first prize and $500 second prize, all of the money will be donated to White — but that doesn’t mean there’s any less riding on the individual teams to win the title for their stations.
“We’ve gotten two emails, one from our top chief and our operations chief, saying how adamantly we need to win, we have to win,” said Kevin Skaer, an Engine 2, Station 2 lieutenant with Lake Dillon Fire Rescue. “We’ve got a lot of pressure to win.”
Bringing home the bacon
Skaer said of all the different crews in his department at all three stations, he and Cook-Off teammate Frank Towers love to cook the most. The pair has become locally famous for their jalapeno poppers, even opening a booth to sell them for the first time at last year’s Colorado BBQ Challenge.
“We’re always making something on duty, and we were kind of playing around with poppers and eating them as snacks, making them for the fire department on Sundays watching football,” Towers said. “We kept saying for years, we’ve got to get a booth at the BBQ Challenge and sell these things.
“We sold out in five hours in the first day. We didn’t know; we weren’t prepared. This year, we are coming back in full force.”
For the competition, Skaer and Towers will be taking their traditional popper, a jalapeno stuffed with cream cheese, wrapped in bacon and covered in barbecue sauce, and turning it up a notch.
“It’s the triple threat of poppers,” Skaer said. “We’ll start off with our jalapeno, stuff it with cream cheese and a little bit of maple pork sausage — the sweet and the heat — then smoke a pork tenderloin, top it with that, then wrap the whole thing in a piece of bacon and grill it and smother it in barbecue sauce.”
Despite Lake Dillon Fire Rescue’s notoriety with their poppers, Brent Chapman is still confident that his team will smoke the competition.
“Those Station 2 guys eat frozen pizza,” said the firefighter and Cook-Off team member for Red, White & Blue with a laugh. “They don’t know what they’re doing.”
Chapman, along with shift team members Allen Cheauteaux and White, will be serving up their own barbecue-inspired take on chicken tacos, served with a side of roasted potato salad.
“On our shift, the things we really like to eat are Mexican food, barbecue and bacon,” Chapman said. “We combined it all into that taco, and potato salad goes great with barbecue.”
Charlie Johnson, a lieutenant at Copper Mountain Fire Department, said his station was a bit late to the Cook-Off game, so he’s kind of winging it with his entry. Most of what he cooks for his crew is more winter-friendly, such as bisques and chilies, and since everyone else is sticking with the barbecue theme, he’s doing something a little different.
“I’ve never made this before; I’ve only made part of it,” he said. “It’s kind of the Red Lobster biscuit. I’m going to have half of them be biscuits with pastrami and a cheese sauce, and on the side will be kind of like an Arby’s sauce, and half of them with ham and cheese sauce.”
Rallying for a friend
Regardless of the outcome of the competition, the three fire departments are using the event as an opportunity to rally around White. Chapman said White’s type of cancer is not one related to the hazards of being a firefighter, so it’s not covered under Colorado law, which means White will be responsible for all of his own medical bills.
“We’ve really been trying to do as much fundraising for him as we can do in light of his situation,” Towers said. “We did a big fundraiser during The Spartan Race, but what bigger venue than the barbecue with 30,000 attendees that we can get out and talk to?”
White has worked in emergency services for the past 20 years, the last three with Red, White & Blue, said Chapman, who has shared a shift with the paramedic for the past year.
“We’re both kind of knucklehead guys, into sports and working out, so he and I became pretty good friends pretty quickly, working together like that,” he said. “He’s a great guy. He’s got an amazing heart, a big time family guy. He loves his kids, loves his wife, loves helping people — just a real generous spirit.”
Hog heaven in Frisco
Jeffrey Bergeron will handle the play-by-play announcing for the Cook-Off, which will be judged by Frisco Mayor Gary Wilkinson, local restaurateur Bobby Kato, award-winning barbecue master Todd Jilbert and local photographer Todd Powell.
“Firefighters have a reputation for being great cooks and having big hearts,” said Vanessa Agee, town of Frisco director of marketing and communications. “This Cook-Off is all about that, but no worries, we won’t be getting too serious. This will be fun and lighthearted, with Jeffrey announcing and with great judges. Think ‘American Idol’ meets ‘Iron Chef’ with a big sense of humor and a dose of Frisco quirkiness.”
Skaer said being “a bunch of hams,” the competitors’ personalities mesh well. That’s likely why the town of Frisco and the folks at Viking created the contest with them in mind. The Cook-Off is one more attraction for the Colorado BBQ Challenge, which Towers said is already one of the greatest festivals in Summit County.
“Frisco really turns it up a notch with that event,” he said. “The fact that it’s a competition circuit, all these great competitors from all over the country — you don’t see that with mountain festivals. Usually they’re more local or regional, but Frisco brings in all the tourists from out of town, the locals and bringing in that aspect in the competitors. If you love food and barbecue, it really is hog heaven.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.