At this weekends Southern Ideal Home Show, firefighters from Durham, Raleigh and Morrisville will be using flames instead of putting them out to battle each other in a cooking competition.
At firehouses, where firefighters often work 24-hour shifts, the cooking often falls to one or two people. The home show organizers decided to show off that culinary talent on the shows cooking stage during the three-day event, which starts Friday at the N.C. fairgrounds in Raleigh.
Among the firehouse chefs will be Cliff Cates, 42, a battalion chief with the Morrisville Fire Department. Cates, who lives in Mebane, started out as a volunteer firefighter in Hillsborough but has been working full time fighting fires since 1997.
His colleagues appreciate his culinary skill. I have been told when you arent here, we dont eat, Cates said.
Morrisville Fire Chief Todd Wright echoes that sentiment: Hes a great cook. Weve had a few chili cook-offs. It seems like every single time he wins.
That chili is one of the dishes that Cates is known for making, along with his Parmesan asparagus and a dish called a fatty, or a bacon-wrapped meatloaf glazed with grape jelly and barbecue sauce. For the competition, Cates plans to make a glazed chicken with peppered goat cheese, au gratin potatoes and Parmesan asparagus with hollandaise sauce.
Cates cooking is so well known that sometimes police and paramedics stationed nearby will join the firefighters for dinner.
The firefighters cooking stage appearance is not just for fun. Cates said they hope to raise awareness and collect funds for the N.C. Firefighters Burned Children Fund, which raises money to help burn survivors and their families and to prevent burn injuries.
Weigl: 919-829-4848; Twitter: @andreaweigl