It’s heating up! Brooklyn Paper reporter to judge firefighter cook-off

Firefighters face off in Red Hook BBQ competition
Photo by Cassandra Giraldo

He’s our guy in barbecue.

Four firehouses are hard at work perfecting their secret recipes for the annual Fairway Market Firefighters Food Face-Off in Red Hook on July 30, and your humble reporter will be tasting every last morsel as a celebrity judge. The winning firehouse will take home a $500 grocery gift card, but the real reward comes from the look on the other guys’ faces, according to one Red Hook smoke eater.

“Bragging rights for a year is a pretty huge prize,” said Michael Wildes, who hangs his hat at the Engine 279 Ladder 131 Happy Hookers firehouse.

Going up against Wildes and his compatriots are another Red Hook firehouse, the Red Hook Raiders, and two interlopers from Brooklyn Heights, the Hicks Street house and the Fire Under the Bridge house.

The Hicks Street team is the defending champion and the Red Hook Raiders took home the prize the year before that. But a week out from the contest, and after plenty of cooking practice, Wildes wasn’t feeling intimidated.

“I’d be shocked if we didn’t win,” Wildes said. “We’re going in with a lot of confidence, and we fully expect to walk away on top.”

The cook-off consists of three rounds: chicken, spare ribs, and burgers. The Happy Hookers have a chef for each specialty. Wildes is the burger brains of the group, and he’s planning to blow away the competition with his own personal twist on the American favorite. What exactly that is, of course, is being kept tightly under wraps.

This is the first time Wildes has cooked in the contest, but he helped organize the event in years past, he said.

In addition to the gift card and the claim to borough dominance, the winners will get to name a charity of their choice as the recipient of a fund-raising drive at the supermarket.

At press time, your culinary correspondent was busy preparing mind, body, and spirit to consume copious amounts of greasy meat while keeping his faculties intact.

“Fairway Market Firefighter Food Face-Off” at Fairway Market (480 Van Brunt St. between Reed Street and the waterfront in Red Hook). Wednesday, July 30 at noon. Rain or shine.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Ribs-y business: Renowned barbecue judge and recovering vegetarian Noah Hurowitz chows down on a spare rib.
Community News Group / Vanessa Ogle