Southern Exposure Magazine began its inaugural “Axed” cooking competition featuring the Franklin Firefighters last night and this writer was invited as a “regular joe” judge in the first evening of a 3 night competition.
Twelve firefighters accepted the challenge to cook their best dish in order to be named the semi-finalist representing their respective shift (A, B or C) and go on to compete in the final competition and be named “Axed” champion. These contestants range from novice cooks to self-proclaimed foodies – many of them are self-taught.
Southern Exposure Magazine Publisher Brandy Blanton, who also serves as an Alderman-At-Large for the City of Franklin, had the opportunity to visit the local fire stations. She discovered each shift and station has one or two people who have taken the lead in feeding their shift. As a magazine publisher and always being on the lookout for a great story, Blanton knew she hit on something. So what started out as an “In the Kitchen With …” feature for SEM on the Franklin Firefighters has now morphed into a cooking competition which will result in a 2014 calendar fundraiser for the Franklin Firefighters Association (IAFF #3758) as well as a show for Franklin TV.
The panel of judges each evening is made up of two local restaurateurs or caterers ,as well as one “regular joe” who was selected from a social media campaign in partnership with the City of Franklin. Joining me this evening were Suzette Lane of Catering by Suzette and Tim Ness of Cool Cafe. Each of the 4 contestants had 30 minutes to prep and 30 minutes to cook their dish to be judged on taste, presentation and creativity with a possible 10 points for each criterion. It’s a small kitchen and the cooking was done by 2 cooks preparing meals at the same time. It was as though “Dancing with The Stars” had met “Chopped” as both competitors moved in sync preparing their meals. Even in competition, you could see the teamwork it takes to be a Franklin Firefighter.
Our first plate served was a Tri-Tip with a delicious spicy potato salad and Cowboy Beans.
Then it was a Yazoo Hefeweizen Chicken with mashed potatoes smothered in a Artichoke and Mushroom Sauce and a side of Garlic Asparagus.
Here we got a chance to stretch our stomachs as the next 2 Firefighters began their meals. Our time was filled with a great tour of Station 1. Insights into how things run, equipment demo, and even a tour of where the officers stayed filled our time. It should be noted that each shift has their own fridge and own dry food storage that stays locked during the other shifts. Apparently, according to one source: “A $100 bill can sit on the counter and not be touched for weeks…A bag of chips is a different story!”.
The next round of food came with much anticipation:
Fish tacos with an Asian twist were highlighted with a side of fresh corn relish and Jasmine rice with black beans and bacon.
Our evening was finished up with a Sundried tomato, goat cheese, and spinach stuffed pork tenderloin. It was accentuated by green beans in a soy sauce, bacon, and brown sugar mix and macaroni and cheese.
The competition was close, but the Fish Tacos were declared the winner of round 1 at the end of the evening. A Special thanks to Southern Exposure, the City of Franklin, and The Franklin Firefighters for a great evening of food and hospitality. We will let you know the 3 finalists as soon as it is released. The fundraiser calendar ,with recipes, is hoped to be completed and on sale by the time PumpkinFest rolls around.