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SLC firefighters battle in cooking show

Published March 28, 2013 3:21 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Forget about "Chopped," and "Iron Chef," America's next culinary competition show could be "Dining with the Chief."

LENZ-Works, a Utah-based production company, is pitching this reality cooking show where firefighters battle flames in their city and in the kitchen. The pilot features two Salt Lake City fire crews, one from Station 8, at 15 W. 1300 South and another from Station 5 at 1023 E. 900 South.

During the show, each team of firefighters is given $30 and three hours to shop, prepare and present a three-course meal to Salt Lake City Chief Kurt Cook. The teams cook and compete all while responding to emergency calls around the city.

At the end of the three hours, the chief does a blind tasting of each course to determine a winner. The victor gets bragging rights and a $3,000 check for charity.

Olympic swimmer and Park City resident Summer Sanders is the host. Watch the pilot on YouTube.

LENZ-Works partners Tom Zdunich and Dan J. Debenham screened the pilot for Salt Lake firefighters and their families on Tuesday morning and said they are currently trying to get a cable station to buy the show, which could be easily replicated in cities and firehouses across the country.

Chief Cook said he and other city officials were initially skeptical about doing the show. "We were worried how it would be perceived by the public," he said. "We wanted them to know that we were responding to all calls and that it wasn't interfering with daily business."

But since responding to calls is built into the competition, they were happy to sign on. There were no fire calls on the day of filming, which took place in June. However, crews did respond to three different cycling accidents — two involving cars and one with a Trax train. There were no fatalities.

While emergency calls are the primary hurdle for the cooks, firefighters also must deal with a mystery ingredient and pranks from the opposing team.

Station 8 Captain Rich Elton said the shenanigans aren't just for the camera. "We have serious jobs with a lot of responsibility but we don't want to take that home with us," he said. "One way to do that is with a little horseplay."

Despite the tricks, the teams were able to produced some gourmet food. The winning team from Station 8, led by Matt Gillies, served the chief sweet and sour wontons, sausage stuffed chicken with a twice baked potato and a cheesecake quesadilla for dessert. Station 5, led by Mike Berry, a former restaurant chef, served bacon wrapped dates, cornmeal crusted halibut with a butter/balsamic sauce and an eclair pie dessert. Station 8 donated its winnings to the University of Utah's Burn Camp.

Firefighters and their families say they hope the show gets picked up by a network, because it's got three things America loves — firefighters, food and giving to local charities.