Now that four of its seven weeks are in our collective rearview mirror, the Rancho Mirage Firemen Chefs Competition—so graciously hosted by PIRCH, the amazing kitchen/bath/outdoor retailer across from The River (next to Lamps Plus) on Highway 111—is really heating up.

When I was there just last week, the competitors were Matt Brant (representing Beaumont Cal Fire) squaring off against Richard Tovar and Todd Lambert (of the Cal Fire Department of Strategic Planning).

According to PIRCH Store Director Jim Murdock, “Matt prepared a mango and date ceviche served on a halved poblano pepper as his appetizer, followed by an Italian sausage/diced date taco using a street-taco-styled corn tortilla. Richard and Todd teamed up to prepare bacon-wrapped dates garnished with chives. Their main course was a rib-eye steak topped with a red wine/mushroom/date reduction and sautéed mushrooms complemented by garlic mashed potatoes. As an added bonus, the firefighters prepared chocolate covered dates stuffed with an almond and drizzled with caramel syrup.”

The judges on hand included Chef Mark Rude of PIRCH, Chef Andre Carthen of the Kathy Ireland Group, and Jeff Wolf from 107.3 Mod FM. As always, those cooking on all burners were critiqued on five criteria: taste, creativity, presentation, use of dates, and technique. According to Jim, it was close but Richard and Todd were victorious, and will move into the semi-finals.

So, folks, the next three weeks are going to be extra exciting. The Wednesdays of October 19 and 26, at 5:30 at PIRCH, will see the last few weeks’ winners compete in semi-finals. Then, on November 2, the finals will be held and the champions will be crowned. Or hosed down. I’m not sure which. Just kidding…

Please remember that this is fire season, and that these dedicated firefighters are taking time out of their very, very busy schedule to raise money for the Riverside Country Professional Firefighter Benevolent Fund. The least we can do to show our respect and gratitude is to come down and witness their gastronomic talents, right? Hope to see you there as the countdown continues!