When city firefighter Trevor Mitchell was growing up supper was a sacred time to prepare a home-cooked meal and enjoy the company of family.
These days, he says, that tradition lives on – at the fire hall.
“Dinner is that first time in the day where none of you have anything to do. You’re all getting together around the table, having dinner. For lack of a better word, it’s family time,” Mitchell said.
He’s been with Sarnia Fire Rescue the past eight years, and during that time has learned a thing or two about cooking at the station for hungry firefighters.
“You’re not trying to impress these guys, they’re family, they’re your brothers. If you want to try something, that’s the place to try it,” he said, noting crew favourites include corned beef, meat loaf and something called bacon explosion, which is “a bacon-weave mat with rolled-up sausage inside,” he said.
Mitchell has given one of his recipes to the wider world in Firehouse Chef, a new cookbook published this fall. It features firefighters from across Canada sharing their top station recipes.
Mitchell’s contribution to the book, Hungarian Goulash with Dumplings, is a family recipe “and it’s good,” he said.
He said it was always important in his family that everyone takes a turn preparing supper during the week. “If the meal was botched, you’d have to eat it anyway,” he said laughing.
The 24-hour format of firefighter shifts makes the evening meal an important part of the fire hall day, he said.
“It is more like that family time. Everyone who is supposed to be there is around the table eating, talking, and you’re not rushing out afterwards.”
Each of the fire stations in Sarnia and its crew has a delegated numbers of “chefs,” and each is well aware of the challenges, he added.
“We could be planning and cooking for three hours and a call comes in,” he said, imitating the response. “Yeah, chief can you swing by the hall and turn the oven off?”
Eating well and cooking for his firehouse family is something Mitchell loves about the job.
“When you do something really well and everyone else enjoys it, there’s a certain amount of pride to it,” he said.
“I like cooking because it brings everyone together.”