Smoke hung heavily on Hope Street on a Thursday morning in early June. Of course the LAFD responded in force – only they left the fire trucks and engines back at the firehouse. This smoke smelled a little different than your average dumpster fire though – there were hints of braised tri-tip, juicy carne asada, BBQ pork shoulder roast and . . . kettle corn?!? And instead of using hoses and axes, the firefighters did their best to handle the flames with tongs and spatulas.
June 6th saw LAFD firefighters from 25 different stations and units come together to battle for the best-in-show food booth trophy at the 16th annual Hope for Firefighters fundraiser. Last year Fire Station 88 and their sponsor American Technologies, Inc. won for best theme with their “Animal House” motif. This year the same team took home the prize for both best recipe and most entertaining theme.
You may have heard of Duck Dynasty, a reality show on A&E? Don’t know if the health inspectors have?!? The guys from 88’s did their best to emulate Louisiana bayou fashion for their theme, wearing camo’s and ZZ Top style beards while cooking their award-winning pulled-pork sandwiches. But the health inspectors were not amused. One was actually seen combing through Jared Bennett’s fake beard looking for lice and nits – wonder if he actually found any? And what was 88’s secret recipe? According to Chris Winn, “Everybody here at 88’s helped out but we have to give credit to Mike Finger. The pork really had great flavor because he smoked the roasts for a full day and a half.”
Besides 88’s pulled pork, firehouse culinary experts whipped up a host of other entrees: FS 2 rolled out pizzas, 39’s fried up fish tacos, and the boys from Skid Row brought out the M.O.A.B. to BBQ their Tri-Tip. Diners had another serious decision to make when lunch was over – which of the many desserts were they to devour? 87’s kettle-corn was a favorite, Los Perros Locos scooped out banana splits, 21’s baked up a pumpkin roll and Harbor FPB’s snow-cones were very popular as the weather heated up later in the day. The judges favorite dessert though, was Fire Station 60’s (with sponsor Grainger) Funnel Cake.
The gang from Fire Station 50 (with Red Hawk Fire & Security) conjured up a very popular Hawaiian burger for the entrée competition – and no wonder, it was 50 percent hamburger and 50 percent bacon! But the real story is what happened at the firehouse before the event. The recipe belongs to Tony Arnado who, along with the crew at 50’s, set to work molding the 600 pounds of meat into burger patties the day prior to Hope. They finished late in the afternoon and left their handiwork in the station frig. When Tony arrived early the next morning to transport the burgers downtown – the refrigerator was empty!! Had a Hawaiian Hamburglar invaded the Atwater Village firehouse or did the “B” shift have a hula island feast for dinner the previous night? Staying calm, Tony put out a “Mayday” and the guys from 50’s jumped in to help. Capt. Ed Holguin put up the money to buy more meat and the off-going shift was held over to assist in burger patty production. “I want to thank all the guys who really stepped up to help,” said Tony. “And it was a good thing because we sold out of all 450 burgers by 1:30 that afternoon.”
The Master of Ceremonies duty was a shared responsibility this year. Known as the “Ambassador of Country Music” for his 20 plus years on the Los Angeles country music scene, Shawn Parr from radio station GoCountry 105.1 introduced the VIP’s, called the play-by-play on the muster events and sang the praises of the LAFD. Backing him up was LAFD battalion chief and all-around good guy Steve Ruda.
The food judges were an impressive gang of short-order cooks who have made their way to the “show.” They took their Hope judging job very seriously though, sampling each of the two dozen entrees and desserts before reaching their verdicts. The judges included:
- Megan Logan, the new head chef at Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse who may have only graduated from culinary school seven years ago, but at 28, has been working in a restaurant almost half of her life. “I started working at Hot Dog On A Stick when I was 15,” she said.
- Fernando Ubario, a 2012 Wine Spectator award winner, heads up the kitchen at Morton’s Steakhouse on Fig downtown.
- McCormick & Schmick’s Executive Chef Kina Deth has worked her way up the kitchen ladder. She started as a line cook, and at 29 sees herself at the downtown seafood restaurant for the long haul.
- Chef Sam Marvin, founder of the ever popular Bottega Louie, who separated from the restaurant last September to form a new hospitality firm called The Goat Group, LLC.
- Paris export chef Guillaume Jouvet, from the casual French restaurant Coco Laurent, who is the mover behind the venue’s bistro cuisine.
- and rounding out the group was Los Angeles chef Cleo Shelby.
An important component of Hope is the community involvement. Besides all the folks working downtown coming out for a great lunchtime meal, the event sponsors partake in a competition of muster events including a bucket brigade and hose cart race. This year Muir-Chase took top honors, followed closely by the teams from Universal Protection Service and US Bank. A respectable finish by the Heinz team was noteworthy in that this was the first all-female muster team to ever compete at Hope.
The National Anthem was sung by SoCal native Lea Carranza, who began performing at age five. Whether performing as a solo artist or with the group BitterSweet, it is said that Lea “touches the soul” when she is on stage. The music continued with the Manual Arts High School Marching Band leading the parade to the muster site, Emerald City Band, a rock and roll cover band playing tunes out on Hope Street and DJ Dave Williams spinning tunes when the band took a break.
In a blast from the past there was a round-up of old-time TV celebrities pressing the flesh and signing autographs for the hordes of star-struck fans wandering down Hope Street. Jerry Mathers, who of course played the “Beaver” (not to be confused with the retired fire captain of the same name), Tony Dow, who played brother Wally Cleaver, and Ken Osmond, who starred as every mother’s nemesis Eddie Haskall (who went on to a career with the LAPD) were present from Leave It To Beaver. From My Three Sons was Stanley Livingston, who played Chip Douglas, from the old Dick Van Dyke Show (the one with Mary Tyler Moore and Carl Reiner) was Rose Marie who portrayed Sally Rogers, and also present was Paul Petersen, who played Jeff Stone on The Donna Reed Show. If you missed seeing all your favorite television stars at Hope for Firefighters, not to worry, you can see them most every night over on TVLand.
The real stars were the scores of hard-working volunteers who gave up a day (and many much more time than that) with whom the event could not have possibly taken place. Event co-chairs Heather Ross and Steve Robinson, along with the many members of their executive and general committees, spent months doing the advanced planning. LAFRA Event Coordinator Juliet Brandolino called in all her chits, and her cadre of friends and volunteers showed up in force to lend a helping hand. LAFD usual suspects Steve Romas, Larry Hoerner, Tom Kitahata, Issac Burks, Bill Bringas, Jim Stiglich and Phil Ayala (and a few others) provided watchful eyes for the muster events. The faithful LAFRA staff – along with friends and family members – helped to sell tickets, man the Firefighter Photo Booth, and could be found supporting almost every other logistical function.
A few of the noteworthy auction and raffle items included:
- A two night stay at Caesar’s Palace, with airfare, limo to and from the airport – donated by Bob Smith, from sponsor R.E. Smith Company
- Two roundtrip tickets on Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air – with no blackout dates – donated by new sponsor Alaska Airlines.
- 12 tickets for a Staples Center Luxury Box – LA Kings Game with preferred parking passes – donated by Jim AItieri & ABM Industries.
- Two Annual passes to Disneyland – donated by Task Force Sponsor Universal Protection Service
- Autographed boxing gloves signed by “Canelo” Alvarez – donated by Hope co-chair Steve Robinson
This year Hope for Firefighters was another win-win event. Firehouse chefs got to show-off their culinary skills, folks in the community were able to share some quality time with their heroes, and maybe most importantly, your LA Firemen’s Relief Association took home some real gold for the Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firemen’s Fund. Remember to mark off the first Thursday in June on next year’s calendar so that you too can be a part of this great tradition.
By Dave Wagner