Goodness knows Diana Dodge and I love to eat and drink. And what could be better than delicious food and glorious wine? Well, putting a competitive spin on the whole affair, of course!

Again this year, esteemed Rancho Mirage retailer PIRCH—which is located on Highway 111 just across from The River, and whose motto is “Kitchen. Bath. Outdoor. Enjoy.”—is hosting a culinary contest to end all culinary contests. In conjunction with the Riverside County Professional Firefighters Benevolent Fund, PIRCH and organizers have identified eight two-person firefighter teams, each of which are representing various stations throughout the Coachella Valley and beyond.

In the next few weeks, each of these duos will be vying for the 2016 Firefighter Chefs championship title, with each pair being judged on such categories as presentation, taste, creativity, and the best use of the featured element by a panel of judges that revolves weekly. The last week of competition’s finals will see celebrity judge Geoffrey Zakarian (chef, restaurateur, TV personality, author) weigh in.

Each match will be held at 5:30 p.m. at PIRCH on Wednesday nights through November 2, the date upon which the victors will be crowned.

On each evening of competition, each team will have used a $100 gift certificate to purchase the ingredients needed to fashion both a first and second course, which the panel of judges will then sample. While some mise-en-place may be completed off-site, the main preparation and actual cooking must be done at PIRCH that night. Donned in donated chef wear, teams will have 60 minutes to make and serve their dishes.

At the kickoff on September 21, Team 1 (Gad Amith and Lupe Ramos-Watson from the EMS Bureau) was defeated by Team 2 (David Cosley and Eli Vega from Station 69). Just last week, on September 28, Team 3 (Station 50’s Matthew Sampson and Mort Allen) were trumped by Team 4 (pinch hitter Mathew Brandt from Station 75 working with “The New Guy @ 50”) with his baked mahi-mahi and mango date salsa over a bed of fiery rice with a spring salad containing dates, cranberries, caramelized pecans, goat cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette. His appetizer was prosciutto-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese, cream cheese, and jalapeño.

All I can say is, “Yum!” See you in coming weeks at PIRCH, folks! And remember, all proceeds go directly to the good cause of the Firefighters Benevolent Fund.

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