Well, it ended where it all started—at PIRCH, that beloved purveyor of high-quality appliances and fixtures for the home whose motto is “Kitchen. Bath. Outdoor. Joy.” The retailer, located in the complex across from The River on Highway 111, graciously donated its working kitchen to the 2016 Firefighter Chef Challenge, a benefit on behalf of The Riverside County Professional Firefighters Benevolent Fund.

For the last several Wednesday evenings, a total of eight teams of firefighters have competed, cooking on all burners at PIRCH in an effort to sway a panel of rotating judges to their corner. Of course, this being fire season, these brave souls are to be especially commended for taking time out of their incredibly hectic autumnal schedule.

On Wednesday, November 2, it all came to a head with last year’s runner-up, Station 71’s John Peppler (with Mark Margolin) duking it out with Station 69’s David Cosley and Eli Vega. Championship judges were Chef Nicole Charlebois, executive chef for Viking West Coast; Chef Bruno Lopez, Executive Chef at The Ritz Carlton, Rancho Mirage; Chef Roland Cook, owner of Roc’s Firehouse Palm Desert (and a 23-year FDNY veteran); and Chef Mark Rude, Executive Chef at PIRCH Rancho Mirage.

According to PIRCH Store Director Jim Murdock, Station 71 prepared “a delicious butternut squash ravioli topped with a brown butter caper sauce. Judges loved the presentation, although the pasta was considered a little bit on the ‘al dente’ side. For dessert, Peppler and Margolin presented a standout date bread pudding finished with a classic ‘hard’ sauce.”

Meanwhile, Cosley and Vega offered a main course of stuffed pork tenderloin with artichokes that was, according to Chef Rude, perfectly prepared. “Following the main course, Station 69 shared their dessert,” says Murdock, “a Brie-stuffed date topped with walnuts and maple syrup.”

While the judges scores revealed a tight race once tallied up—with only 12 points separating the teams—Cosley and Vega of Station 69 were named the victors. Hats off to all the brave firefighters who participated, and we already can’t wait to see how things heat up for the 2017 edition!

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