published: Friday, March 15, 2013
From Spaghetti O's to prize chili
This is the third and final part in a series about the area's "firehouse chefs."
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING - One thing most fire houses have in common, no matter the location, is a need to feed the hungry firefighters. Throughout the many fire stations, there seems to have always been designated a "firehouse chef". The firehouse chef is the favorite at the fire station for many reasons; they provide not only meals but allow a setting for brotherhood and camaraderie.
Throughout Highlands County, there are a number of firehouse chefs. One of the county's busiest firefighter/EMT's is Bill Miller. Miller is best known for his work as the fire rescue manager at Sebring International Raceway; he also serves as operations manager at Positive Medical Transport.
Miller is employed as a full-time firefighter in Fort Myers but has worked in Highlands County for the past six years. He is no stranger to cooking. When in any of his many firehouses, Miller spends a great deal of time preparing meals for his comrades.
"I love cooking," Miller said. "I like cooking on sight the most. I cook everyday."
Miller has been dubbed the "head cook" in both the Fort Myers fire station and at Positive Medical Transport home base. He has perfected his love affair of cooking over the past decade and has created some signature recipes that his gang goes crazy over.
"We eat all kinds of things. Barbecue, chili, burgers and dogs, everything," Miller said.
When asked about his favorite dish to prepare, Miller made it no secret that his fellow service men and women enjoy his smoked brisket and chili the most; and the community agrees with them.
For the past two years, Miller's one-of-a-kind, delicious chili has won People's Choice at the Sebring Rotary Crazy Chili Pepper Cook-Off. He served up his scrumptious chili to loads of guests in December at the event. Miller (representing Positive Medical Transport) was awarded the Overall Winner.
Miller's cooking skills have grown a lot over the years. Taking lessons from his stepfather, Miller learned the basics and expanded on it with many years of practice.
"I started off cooking Spaghetti O's," Miller said with a chuckle.
Since the canned pasta days are long behind him, the chef whips up more challenging items for the entire firehouse. On a normal day at a station, Miller feeds up to 14 people. Though the cooking itself is never a problem, it can become challenging when a call goes out to the house.
"That's really hard ... it seems like it happens every time. The hardest problem is having to stop in the middle of cooking something to go out for a call, but that's all part of the job," Miller said.
Miller never minds the time out of the kitchen to possibly save a life, and he never minds cooking a little more to feed an extra belly during some of the most special days of the year.
"We have full meals for holidays. If you've got to be away from home and working on a holiday away from your family, at least you get some good food in your belly," Miller said.
The employees pitch in a set amount of money each day to cover the cost of two meals every shift. Miller tries to keep the budget around $15 per person at the fire stations.
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