News-Sun photo by KATARA SIMMONS Firefighter/E.M.T. Mike Turek helps Lt. Steve Kempe prepare dinner Thursday evening at Avon Park Fire Department. Turek has been with the department for nine years and Kempe has served for 24 years.
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published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Avon Park Fire Department has experience at the stove
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
AVON PARK - Not only is Lt. Steve Kempe a 24-year veteran on the fire department end, the man is no stranger to the kitchen.
"Everyone calls me the main chef," Kempe said with a chuckle.
The experienced cook knows a thing or two about putting out fires as well as burning in the department's newly renovated kitchen.
Kempe began cooking at the age of 10, learning the basics from family members. Once he began his career as a firefighter, he took his hobby with him to all of his previous stations before landing at Avon Park Fire Department.
"They took me in with open arms," Kempe said. "When you're putting food in people's stomachs, they definitely welcome you."
Kempe has a number of specialties he brings out for the boys at the fire house, many of which the fellows enjoy and keep coming back for more.
Salmon croquet, home dill sauce, chicken cordon bleu, and pork sandwiches are just a few of the staples that Kempe whips up throughout the week at the firehouse. According to Kempe, there are a few "firefighter meals" that every firehouse chef knows and continues to make year after year.
"Stuff like chili and spaghetti are regular. It's those things that we can cook and reheat if we have to go out on a call. But then there are certain meals that you have to plan ahead for so that they don't ruin during those call outs," Kempe said.
The camaraderie of the firehouse meals is what makes the time so special. Each of the firefighters on Kempe's C-shift work 24 hour days, so they spend usually three meals together throughout the day.
"I cook all three meals on a shift. There are five of us on C-shift so we split the costs. We try to keep it around $8 per meal per person," Kempe said.
There are those special occasions when the boys go all out and create mini feasts for holidays. Kempe works on a holiday meal for a day or so, prepping homemade dressing, stuffing and his famous, made-from-scratch gravy.
"Oh, my gravy is killer," Kempe said. "It's so good it's not uncommon to just want to eat it out of the bowl with a spoon."
Kempe doesn't just cook for his shift. His food is so well-liked around the firehouse he is often coaxed into staying around just a bit to cook for the oncoming shift on his way out of the station.
"A lot of times I end up staying a couple extra hours to cook breakfast for the next shift coming on. They ask me to just stay for a few minutes and cook breakfast so I do. I enjoy it," Kempe said.
A weekly meal at the APFD station that is a favorite among the guys - venison. Kempe revealed that the station members eat venison at least once a week. The chef uses the meat to make a number of different items that his colleagues all enjoy.
"I make deer sausage, burgers, all kinds of things. We have a lot of hunters around here so we get wild hog pretty regular and gator. We're trying to keep everyone full and we definitely make that happen," Kempe said.
Doughnuts (by: bAdLeY b. - 2/15/2013)
If they did doughnuts all the cops would be stopping by.
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