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Firefighters cook for a cause

SKFR firefighter Leif Anderson impressed the judges by donning a grass skirt for Thursday’s cook-off. - Aaron Burkhalter/Staff Photo
SKFR firefighter Leif Anderson impressed the judges by donning a grass skirt for Thursday’s cook-off.
— image credit: Aaron Burkhalter/Staff Photo

Proving firefighters are indeed a highly competitive bunch, South Kitsap Fire and Rescue hosted a cooking match Thursday night that was very much like the Food Network’s “Iron Chef” series.

Pitting two firefighters against Fire Chief Wayne Senter, the competition gave each “chef” a selection of vegetables and steak to grill, but only requiring them to use the secret ingredient — a fresh, whole pineapple.

Each contestant was allowed to bring any sauces, spices and equipment they needed beforehand, then given an hour to prepare their meals.

The two firefighters, Laine Hogle and Leif Anderson, entered the competition with a healthy rivalry already in place.

“They’re known as the cooks,” said Lt. Jennifer Schmidt, who explained that she and her husband, David Schmidt, dreamed up the competition last year as a way to raise money for the department’s Relay For Life team, the Firewalkers. “We have so many members, we prefer to raise money in-house, rather than asking the community for donations.”

The cooking competition raised money in a few ways, Schmidt said. First, the judges bid highly for the privilege of tasting all the food, then the audience was asked to donate money for the picnic of hot dogs and hamburgers cooked up while the chefs grilled.

Finally, there was a raffle as well.

From the start of Thursday’s competition, it was clear that Anderson was anxious to take the “top chef” title from Hogle, who had won it last year.

However, from early on Chief Senter looked to have the match in the bag.

Calm and cool — and with the biggest grill — Senter impressed the judges with his use of real mesquite chips and his menu prepared ahead of time.

“That’s why he’s the chief,” Schmidt said.

Hogle got points for her use of fresh herbs and gloves — “The only one using them,” pointed out judge Lloyd McCallister — and the judges appreciated Anderson’s use of a grass skirt, but in the end, the chef took top honors.

“It was really close,” said judge Mark Yergeau, explaining that Senter got 106 points — collected for presentation, attitude, taste and originality — Anderson collected 104 and Hogle earned 102.

“The chief’s was called ‘the most complex and refined,’” Schmidt said.

Was there ever any doubt?

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