Fires Of A Different Kind
Assembled in the kitchen of Fort Worth’s historic Central Fire Station No. 2 are 16 firefighters looking a little anxious. Their gaze is fixed on firehouse cook Steve Walker and various staff members from Chile Pepper magazine who are busy coating, labeling and cooking an assortment of chicken wings. For firefighters accustomed to varying degrees of heat, the task before them should be, well, easy to swallow. But then again, we're talking hot and spicy chicken wings, and what is about to ensue is the first-ever Quaker Steak & Lube Wing-Ding-Fling, a chicken wing sauce competition that starts with mild and accelerates to hot.
Who better to judge hot wing sauces than these men and women who will be taste testing a total of 21 sauces, and judging them on the basis of visual appearance, texture, smell and two categories of heat from an initial attack to finish?
Firehouse cook Steve Walker, who has been cooking at Central Fire Station No. 2 for 20 years, has cooked his share of chicken wings, and says mealtime is the most important time of today for most firemen.
“Eating together in the kitchen is a time to socialize, when everyone is in there together," says Walker. "It's a time when you talk about your day and find out about any changes and what's going on at the station." For many of the firefighters at Station No. 2, the experience is like family and the cooking, some say, is “even better than home.” We won't mention any names!
Mealtime is especially important at stations that have a “boarding house” system. At these stations, most firefighters eat at least two of their daily meals at the station and contribute to the food fund either per diem or per pay period. It’s the cook’s job to shop for the food and plan the meal.
As the taste testing begins, the firefighters are presented with round one — the “mild” sauces. A total of seven are given a score. As round one comes to an end, the firefighters suddenly stand to their feet and run quickly toward the door. Responding to a dispatch, they discover it’s a false alarm and just as quickly return to the table…