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The Firehouse Chef Who Still Burns His Toast «


Dan Pashman: I’m standing in the middle of a supermarket parking lot in Harrison, New York, about 25 miles north of New York City. And the guy I’m supposed to meet here is late. But when he shows up, he’s easy to find cause he’s driving a big, red, fire truck.

AJ Fusco: Usually, I’d like here a little earlier and just start prepping everything out, you know? 

*Dan Pashman: This is AJ Fusco. He’s a firefighter in town. He’s cooking lunch at the firehouse today — and he’s behind schedule. He was late to meet me because he was on a call, which I totally understand. But he has to answer to the guys at the firehouse, who are already getting hungry. Fortunately, AJ has a strategy:

AJ Fusco: We’ll have Donny, make the guac first, so that way when they start getting antsy like, oh well, when’s lunch? When’s lunch ready — whatever, we have something for them to pick on and keep ’em quiet. 

Dan Pashman: What’s the — at what point do they really start getting restless? Is there a time that you’re like — 

AJ Fusco: One o’clock is like — you’re pushing lunch at one o’clock. We used to work with a guy — he just retired — 12 o’clock, on the dot, everyday he’d whistle into the intercom —  [AJ WHISTLES] 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: You know, lunch? But he just retired so we don’t — it’s not as much pressure on us anymore. 

Dan Pashman: But still, one o’clock, you’re gonna have some angry firefighters. 

AJ Fusco: Yeah, yeah. I mean, listen, I mean, I’m hungry now. You know? So I’ll probably be a little hangry myself. It’s part of the dynamic of firehouse cooking. You never know when you’re gonna have to stop.


*Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful, it’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters, I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people. Today on the show, can AJ get lunch on the table before the crew mutinies? Or will a call come in and ruin the whole meal? 

*Dan Pashman: There are a lot of great firehouse cooks out there. But AJ’s a little different, because he went to culinary school. He’s also done some moonlighting as a chef at an upscale restaurant in New York City. As you’ll hear, that work has more in common with being a firefighter than you’d think.

*Dan Pashman: As we enter the grocery store, AJ tells me that today he’s making chicken tinga tacos. Chicken tinga is spicy Mexican shredded chicken. AJ’s crewmate, Donny, is pitching in with his world famous guac.

Dan Pashman: So AJ, as you’re walking through the super market, are you thinking about who’s on duty, who’s your audience for that day?

AJ Fusco: 100 percent. So our normal crew is me, Donny, and this other guy, Rob, you’re gonna meet. I know them like the back of my hand as far as what they like, what they don’t like. But then if a guy’s coming in on maybe an overtime or a mutual shift and now I gotta figure — okay, he doesn’t like rice but the other guy doesn’t like pasta, so now I gotta figure out another carb situation because that’s very important — need carbs. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] Right. 

Grocer: [ON THE INTERCO] Bakery, please pick up line 3. Bakery, line 3, please. 

 *Dan Pashman: So AJ knows his audience, but he likes pushing the guys to try something new.

AJ Fusco: I’m gonna get some cotija cheese. 

Dan Pashman: Okay. 

AJ Fusco: Normally, it’d be like shredded cheddar or something like that. 

Dan Pashman: Are we gonna tell the guys, it’s cotija cheese? Or you’re just gonna tell them it’s — 

AJ Fusco: No, they actually like this … 

Dan Pashman: Okay. 

AJ Fusco: Cause I said it was like a Parmesan cheese. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: Which it really isn’t.

*Dan Pashman: We’ll get to the cooking and eating at the firehouse, but right now let’s hit pause on that story, and let’s spend a little more time with AJ Fusco.

*Dan Pashman: He was born and raised in Harrison. His family’s lived there forever. His dad is a cop there. His uncles are volunteer firefighters there. AJ’s soft spoken, but he has a quiet intensity about him. It’s easy for me to imagine him doing well in pressure situations — even enjoying it. He’s been a full time firefighter since 2005, which is also when he started really getting into cooking.

AJ Fusco: The cooking got serious once I got hired with the fire department. That’s kind of like when it took off. 

Dan Pashman: Why?

AJ Fusco: I think it was because I was no longer cooking for myself. I was cooking for the guys I worked with. And guys started telling me they liked it and, “Oh, make that again,” or, “We really liked what you made last tour.” You know, once I started those things, I was like, man this is cool. I like this. 

Dan Pashman: When you first started getting into cooking school and cooking professionally, I gather the guys in the firehouse were very supportive and you said that they like helped you with changing your shifts and all that. You know? But do they also kind of give you a hard time about it?

AJ Fusco: Yeah, a little bit. Especially, in the beginning. So I would get the, you know, oh, well you’re all fancy kind of deal, or my cooking style changed where I’m making all different sauces now, you know, coming from like a French trained school. So they would bust my chops about that. And then if you screw up — now, you’ve got this whole — oh, well, you went to culinary school and you’re still burning toast in the toaster over.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: Which, true story, has happened. I mean, it’s like, I just paid a loot of money for culinary school and I’m still burning toast. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] I still can’t make toast. 

AJ Fusco: Yeah, you got a lot more to live up to, you know? More expectations to live up to, for sure. 

Dan Pashman: What part of your firefighter training comes in handy when you’re working as aa cook?

AJ Fusco: You know, dealing with a stressful job? I don’t know, you don’t time to really think. You just do it. You know? And I think the same thing with like the fire thing. You know, it’s kind of like, just do it. Get it done. You know what you have to do but you don’t over think it. And, you know, there’s the adrenaline behind it. 

Dan Pashman: And what about what does working in a restaurant kitchen — how has that affected your work as a firefighter?

AJ Fusco: Here, it’s kind of like we’re all kind of in the same boat, you know, the same level. You know, whether it’s economic or socially, whatever? In the restaurant, I’m dealing with people that are just trying to make ends meet. I’m blessed for what I’ve got, you know, and these people are really working hard. I don’t know, I just feel like I’m a little more compassionate towards them, I guess. 

*Dan Pashman: When we recorded this episode in 2018, AJ was moonlighting as a chef at White Gold Butchers, it was an upscale butcher shop and restaurant in New York City. When he’s cooking in the firehouse, he loves to bring in the foods he’s learned about in the restaurant. For AJ, growing up in an Italian American family, tacos meant shredded iceberg lettuce, black olives, Ortega seasoning. Today, AJ’s making tacos with limes and cotija cheese — that’s the crumbly white cheese traditionally served with tacos. Sometimes the other firefighters are skeptical of these unfamiliar ingredients. But that doesn’t stop AJ from trying to up his game.

AJ Fusco: The first time I made tacos here, I could probably guar — I don’t remember but I could probably guarantee you I never toasted the tortillas. The first time I made family meal in the restaurant, which, to me, is a direct correlation to making food here. 

Dan Pashman: That’s like the food for the staff … 

AJ Fusco: Yeah.

Dan Pashman: When you cook for the staff in the restaurant. 

AJ Fusco: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, you cook for the staff. First time I did it, I heated the tortillas up just enough to get the chill off of them, cause they were in the refrigerator and that was it. And in very nice way, my buddy, Javier, pulled me aside and said, “Dude, make them sexy,” you know?

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: Put some char on them. And he showed me how to do it and it tasted so much better. You know? And it’s little things like that that they’ve taught me that I’m able to bring here and kind of like, not — I don’t tell them when I’m doing it. I don’t want them to have to think too much. I want them to just enjoy the food. 

Dan Pashman: And I know that you’ve done a lot to try to introduce them, like the guys here in the firehouse, to different ingredients, different dishes …

AJ Fusco: Right. 

Dan Pashman: Why is it important to you to try to provide — the word “authentic” is alway sort of like a problematic term, but like, for lack of a better term, like, why is that a priority for you to introduce the guys in the firehouse to a more authentic version of these foods?

AJ Fusco: Once they experience what a real Mexican taco was, it was like, man this is amaze — it’s like of Italian food, you know? It’s simple. You know? Simple ingredients done well and when it comes to cooking for these guys, I want them to experience that as well.


AJ Fusco: I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, you know, a lot of the guys I work with, they wouldn’t be the ones to go to a high end restaurant. So maybe another part of it is make them food that they might never even get a chance experience. That’s something I could offer them.


AJ Fusco: Sometimes I drift back into that macho firefighter mentality and then I go back into like the chef mentality. But even to me, chefs, cooks, you know, kind of have that blue collar attitude too. You’re working hard. You’re working long hours. You’re doing things that most people don’t want to do. They want to reap the rewards of you cooking, you know? They don’t want to sit there in a hot kitchen. So I think we kind of relate on that way.

Dan Pashman: Well, it’s funny because when I first saw that you’re working at White Gold, and it’s like, April Bloomsfield’s place, and she’s like high end, you know very well-known — big time chef in New York City — my first knee jerk reaction was like, oh that’s — that must be such a different culture from a firehouse. But then I thought well, but really, I mean, it might be fancy outfront but a kitchen’s a kitchen. 

AJ Fusco: Yeah. It’s so similar in ways I’ve never thought they would be. It’s hot. Right? [LAUGHS]

Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: I mean, theres usually fire, right? Things have to be done in a certain way and it’s usually under pressure. You’re usually working with somebody else and maybe you don’t get along with them all the time, or they might want to do it differently — whether it’s plating the dish or whether it’s cutting the door open to the car — all these things that I’m like, jeez, it’s like — it’s literally like working in the firehouse. 


*Dan Pashman: Coming up, we’ll hear about the role some of the other firefighters in the department have played in AJ’s journey:

CLIP (DONNY DEARBORN): With AJ going to culinary school, we were his guinea pigs.

CLIP (AJ FUSCO): So if something sucks, they’re gonna let you know and you’re probably never gonna make it again. 

*Dan Pashman: And, we’ll leave the supermarket with a fire truck full of groceries and a deadline fast approaching.

CLIP (AJ FUSCO): It’s probably better and more comfortable to sit in. 

Dan Pashman: Okay. Thanks. 


Dan Pashman: I am riding in the fire truck!







*Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman. Oh, you gotta check out last week show. This is a big one. We uncover a New Jersey Whiskey Mystery. Six years ago, Akhil and Nisha Dayal found a whiskey bottle at an estate sale that seemed to come out of nowhere. They couldn’t find any information online about the brand or the inn it was supposedly bottled for. So we decided to take on the case, to try and learn where this mysterious whiskey came from. 

CLIP (AKHIL DAYAL): The address is 237 Palisade avenue in Garfield.

CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): [TYPING] No business’s coming up. I’m on Google earth right now. What’s this one? Nope. The Chinese restaurant is 235 Palisade Avenue, Garfield, New Jersey. The very next house — 239. There is no 237 Palisade Avenue in Garfield, New Jersey, you guys. Woah.


*Dan Pashman: And as we get closer to learning the truth, we discover that this story is about a lot more than just a bottle of liquor. 

CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): So I’m gonna share my screen with you. I’m gonna show you a picture of the bottle. You ready?

CLIP (JIMMY): Oh shi – 

CLIP (VINNIE): Oh my god. 

CLIP (JIMMY): It’s crazy.

CLIP (VINNIE): Are you serious?

*Dan Pashman: This is a great story I hope you check it out. It’s up now. 

*Dan Pashman: Okay, back to the show …

*Dan Pashman: After going grocery shopping, we got back to the firehouse. The firefighters are split into crews, so they’re usually scheduled to work with the same group, their regular crew. A single shift is 24 hours, from 7 A.M. to 7 A.M. So during that time a crew isn’t just working together — they’re living together. And firefighters are creatures of habit, they like their routine, maybe because the other part of the job can be so unpredictable. In the morning it’s housework and truck checks. In the afternoon — training. And meals are supposed to happen on time.

*Dan Pashman: In his crew, AJ is the primary chef . Then there’s Rob, he’s kind of quiet. He usually does the dishes. He joined the department a few years after AJ. Finally, there’s Donny. He’s a little older, he’s got a salt and pepper mustache. He’s been in the department for 20 years. Donny’s the one who’s making the guac today. As he and AJ cook, Rob peeks in every few minutes to see when the food will be ready, which seems to make AJ and Donny a little nervous. I guess we don’t want to see Rob get hangry.

*Dan Pashman: While AJ is the one who went to culinary school, I can tell Donny knows his way around the kitchen. As he assembles his guac, his jalapeno chopping skills look pretty solid to me.

Dan Pashman: Don, do you cook at home? 

Donny Dearborn: On occasion. On occasion. My family doesn’t like what I cook. 

Dan Pashman: Okay. 


Donny Dearborn: I tend to like things a little bit more spicy. I like peppers. Like, I like bell peppers. I like those kind of — that kind of texture of stuff — mushroom and those sorts of things. And they more like chicken nuggets and french fries.


Dan Pashman: So the firehouse is where you come for like more adventurous eating?

Donny Dearborn: Yes. 


Dan Pashman: So Don, what do people most often bust AJ’s chops about?

Donny Dearborn: His height. 

AJ Fusco: [LAUGHS] 


Donny Dearborn: Mostly his height and how he needs a steps ladder to get into the truck and you know, he shops at the kids’ section of the K-Mart, and all that. You know?

Dan Pashman: And what about when he first started cooking here? 

Donny Dearborn: Um … 

Dan Pashman: Did people bust his chops for that?

Donny Dearborn: Yeah. Well, a little bit here and there. You know … 

 *Dan Pashman: Donny says the guys still tease AJ about the first time he cooked in the firehouse — he made beer can chicken, where you but a can of beer in a chicken’s cavity and then stand the whole bird up on a grill. AJ tells the story.

AJ Fusco: You know, I’d done it a couple times at home, so I was like, oh, I got this. You know, looks fancy. It’s a nice display. So put it on the grill, but I didn’t turn the middle burners off. And so, you know, when chicken cooks, the fat renders and it drips. And it hit the fire and we’re sitting in the kitchen and one of the guys — he’s retired now, but he says, “Hey, is there supposed to be that much smoke out there?”

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: And everyone — and it was pretty much a fully involved grill fire. 

Dan Pashman: Oh! [LAUGHS] 

Donny Dearborn: It was AJ’s first fire. 


Donny Dearborn: It was AJ’s first job. He set it himself. 

AJ Fusco: Yeah. 


AJ Fusco: I called it, “Blackened Chicken”, though. So, you know? I salvaged it. We took the skin off. 

Dan Pashman: So your first meal you cooked in the firehouse, you started a fire. 

AJ Fusco: Yes. 

Dan Pashman: Is what you’re telling me. 

AJ Fusco: Yeah. Yeah. Cause that — I mean, it’s the first one that I remember, so it might as well be. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Rob Porto: There’s been plenty of mishaps since then. Oh! Speaking of mishaps … 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: Wow. Come here, Rob. Introduce yourself.

Dan Pashman: Rob, this is your other — 

AJ Fusco: Yeah, this Rob. Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: The other part of your crew, that just walked by.

AJ Fusco: You’ll get to meet him. Exactly. Rob never cooks when I’m working, cause he knows I’ll do it. Right? But I come to find out, he cooks when he’s working with other guys. So I said, “Oh, that’s interesting …”, so I’m busting his chops with them. I’m like, “Yeah, I heard you made chicken picatta the other night.” And he’s like, “Uh, yeah, yeah. I made it.” So I said, “Well, that’s good cause next time we work, you’re gonna make it for me.” And he did. He made it. In the process of making it, he managed to spill about 5 gallons of boiling hot water on the ground. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]

AJ Fusco: Light a paper towel on fire at the same time, and shatter the top to the pot. So … Oh! Oh, and then cover himself with flour when he was getting ready to flour the chicken [LAUGHS] But I will say this, it was damn good chicken piccata. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: It was a really good dish. 

Dan Pashman: Rob, care to respond? 

Rob Porto: Nope. 

Dan Pashman: No? 


AJ Fusco: You’re not gonna get a lot of him. 

Dan Pashman: All right. [LAUGHS] 


Dan Pashman: So the chicken is on the stove. You seasoned it. Give me a quick list of what you seasoned the chicken with. 

AJ Fusco: Garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, oregano — actually, no cayenne. Sorry, cause I’m using the adobo*. I don’t want to go too crazy — oregano, paprika. salt, pepper — I thought I had chili powder, I don’t. I usually like to — I actually grind my own and bring it in, but I forgot to do that. My bad. I’m gonna wash these peppers real quick … 

*Dan Pashman: In addition to trying to cook a little gourmet, AJ also tries to cook pretty healthy in the firehouse. Today, he’s making sautéed mushrooms and peppers for vegetarian tacos to go with the chicken. While he works, I poke around the kitchen. Each crew has their own pantry cabinet, kind of like roommates who each get a shelf in the fridge.

Dan Pashman: Wait, so let’s compare your pantry to the others. What is that? What’s that one right there?

AJ Fusco: This? Mirin. 

Dan Pashman: Mirin?

AJ Fusco: Which is something I that I told them I uses, but — [LAUGHS] but you know, it’s just a cooking wine. It’s a Japanese cooking wine. 

Dan Pashman: You have the mirin, the red wine vinegar. You got panko bread crumbs. Now, let’s check out the next group’s pantry.

AJ Fusco: You’re not gonna want to even — probably eat half of this. 

Dan Pashman: Yeah. 

AJ Fusco: [LAUGHS]

Dan Pashman: They have …

AJ Fusco: Five can jellied cranberry sauce. 


AJ Fusco: And I’m pretty sure Ocean Spray doesn’t even use that logo anymore. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: We got red clam sauce. That’s disgusting. 

Dan Pashman: Red clam sauce. That looks so old that the label is coming off the can. 

AJ Fusco: Yeah, the glue is expired. 

Dan Pashman: Yeah. They’ve got Ricola cough drops and like a gallon jug of ice tea powder. 

AJ Fusco: That gets used. 


Dan Pashman: We’ll I would just say that I would rather be in your squad, AJ. So do you feel like you’re on the clock right now? Do you feel some urgency?


AJ Fusco: Definitely. It’s a quarter to one. Remember I was saying like that one o’clock deadline is coming up and I could tell Rob’s already — he was kind of hovering a little bit. You could see he popped in, kind of checking in. I think we’re looking at a 1:30 eat time here. 

Dan Pashman: Oh, okay. 

AJ Fusco: Yeah.

Dan Pashman: Oh, you just got an angry look from Rob over there. [LAUGHS] 

*Dan Pashman: Donny gets his guac on the table, it was really good. Perfect balance between salt and citrus and heat. And then just a great crunch from the little bits of jalapeno. Rob stops pacing outside and comes in to snack. And I finally get him to talk to me:

Dan Pashman: Rob, I see you spooning little dollops of guacamole onto each chip individually. You seem to have put a lot of thought into this process. Tell me about it. 

Rob Porto: Cheap chips. They break in the salsa.

Dan Pashman: Ohh. 

Rob Porto: We got to solve the problem. 

Dan Pashman: So you were concerned about the structural integrity of the chips. 

Rob Porto: Actually, I was concerned about sticking my finger the guac when the chip broke. 

AJ Fusco: Oh, yeah. That’s a good one. 

Rob Porto: So if everybody else use’s a spoon, nobody has to stick their fingers in it. 

Dan Pashman: So you’re concerned with hygiene is what you’re telling me. 

Rob Porto: Yeah. Big time. I’m the guy with the — you know, I have to get my chips first before anybody sticks their hand in the bag. They all make fun of me around here for it, but …

AJ Fusco: Naw. I mean, I think we all, for the most part, try to adhere to that rule. 

Rob Porto: Now. It took a couple years. 

AJ Fusco: Right, you’ve trained us well. 


Rob Porto: A couple tantrums, you know, after they did it. 

Dan Pashman: Is there anyone in the department who just absolutely refuses to observe your rule?

Rob Porto: Ohh. Without a doubt. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Rob Porto: I’ve not eaten meals because guys have refused to do certain things. 

Dan Pashman: This may be a dumb question coming from a non-firefighter, but I mean, like don’t you get dirty in your work?

Rob Porto: Eating and your daily life is totally different. When it comes to eating, you gotta eat right, gotta eat clean. 

*Dan Pashman: At this point the meal is getting close. AJ has multiple pans on the stove, chicken sauteing, sauce simmering. He’s putting some hot peppers right on the flame to char the outside of them. Everything is coming together.

Dan Pashman: SO you’re sitting here right now. 

AJ Fusco: Right. 

Dan Pashman: There’s chicken on the stove. Any second right now, an alarm could go off and guys could have to drop everything. 

AJ Fusco: Oh yeah. The stove’s getting turned off. Not even gonna cover the pan, probably. You never know. That’s part of the whole — like I was saying, you try to tailor your menu to something that’s kind of firehouse friendly, you know?

Dan Pashman: So what’s an example of a food that you would love to cook, but it just doesn’t make sense because of the logistics of a possible alarm at any moment?

AJ Fusco: Like shrimp is kind of a huge gamble. And you know, I’d love to make like a nice shrimp scampi but I hate overcooked shrimp. We like stews. One pot meals are great. Anything that, you know, you could keep in the oven, even if you have to shut the oven off and it’s not gonna overcook. Something like that, that’s always good. 


*Dan Pashman: That’s a big reason why firehouse chili has such a long history. In an emergency, chili is the kind of thing you can just leave on the stove for hours.

Dan Pashman: So Rob, how have your eating habits changed since AJ started cooking here?

Rob Porto: I’ve tried a bunch of things I probably would have never tried if I didn’t work with him. 

Dan Pashman: Like what have some of the successes and some of the failures?

Rob Porto: Oh, the quinoa, for sure, is a success. I really like it. 

Dan Pashman: Okay. 

Rob Porto: What else did I try with you? Kale? The kale is a new thing. 

AJ Fusco: Cauliflower mash, I did a … 

Rob Porto: Cauliflower mash — that was something I would probably say I’d never ever eat, but it was good. Fail wise? I don’t know. He made mushy peas one day. That’s terrible. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: Oh, those were excellent. Wait, let’s talk about Rob’s pea situation. 

Rob Porto: I don’t like peas. That’s it. There’s not other situation. I love split pea soup. That’s it. 


AJ Fusco: It’s a texture thing though. I get it. 

Dan Pashman: I get that. Yeah. 

Rob Porto: Texture, taste, everything, I don’t like peas. 

*Dan Pashman: At about 1:30, lunch is ready. Later than normal, but fortunately no one was too upset about it. And there were no calls to delay the feast. Now, some firehouses have a lot of rules at meal time — no phones at the table, probies, or rookies, have to sit with their backs to the TV. Some have a family hour after dinner, where everyone is required to stay at the table and talk. In Harrison, they aren’t so strict. But they do observe a couple of cardinal rules — if you cook, you don’t set the table and you don’t do dishes.

*Dan Pashman: AJ laid out the chicken, the sauteed veggies, onions, cilantro, hot sauce. Rob did raise an eyebrow at the cotija cheese …

AJ Fusco: You’ve eaten it before. 

Rob Porto: Just asking. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: You ask every time! 

Rob Porto: I’m gonna eat it anyway. It’s just I’d like to know what I’m eating. Actually, I really don’t care. 


AJ Fusco: That’s the cotija stuff. 

Donny Dearborn: Yeah, I like that. It’s a little bit bigger than normal. 

*Dan Pashman: I thought everything was fantastic. The sauce on the chicken had a nice deep peppery spice, the tortillas were charred, nice and sexy the way Javier told AJ to do it. But as good as I thought it was, AJ felt there was room for improvement.

AJ Fusco: I would have liked to reduce that a little bit. 

Dan Pashman: Reduce the sauce some more? 

AJ Fusco: Yeah, it’s a little like soupy for me. And I probably should have more mushrooms. [LAUGHS] 

Dan Pashman: It looks like the whole firehouse is going vegetarian?

AJ Fusco: I’m working on it. All right, you know what?

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

AJ Fusco: You cook next time. 

Rob Porto: Let me get the cheese, while that’s still allowed on the table. 


Dan Pashman: Don, what’s your take on today’s meal?

Donny Dearborn: Maybe give tacos a two and the guacamole a 5.6


Dan Pashman: You seem a little biased though. 

Donny Dearborn: No, I’m not biased at all. No, the tacos are excellent. Everything was excellent, as always. 

Rob Porto: Our crew is good. He cooks. We eat. He know what we don’t like, so he’ll accommodate us without us even asking. Other crews, as far as food wise, they have to have a 45-min discussion, argument about what they’re gonna eat. Who gets offended if you don’t want to eat with them. So there’s as lot a dynamics in the firehouse when it comes to food.

Dan Pashman: Right.

Rob Porto: In general, yeah. 

Dan Pashman: Well, you guys spend a lot of time together. 

Rob Porto: Oh yeah. That’s for sure. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] I mean, I’m sure that’s part — I mean, like every job has it’s personality conflicts and dynamics and that’s just part of being a human being and having a job. But you guys spend long stretches together, and sometimes have really intense work to go together, so I’m sure that makes it a little different from a typical 9 to 5. 

Rob Porto: I mean, at the least, we’re together for 24 hours. You know, sometimes it’s 36, 48 hours straight we’re all together and …

AJ Fusco: Yeah, you can go into a different room but it doesn’t mean you’re gonna have to not work together in a little bit on a call or something like that. You’re gonna have to put that aside. 

Dan Pashman: So when you guys out on an especially tough call and you come back, what goes on here at the kitchen table?

AJ Fusco: The kitchen is like a therapist’s office. So if there is something that’s bothering you, whether it’s work related or personal life related — you know, guys don’t have too — I don’t think guys have a problem kind of airing it out. You know? And getting it off their chest, whatever it may be. 

Donny Dearborn: The kitchen table is like the center point or the focal point of the firehouse. So we settle of our — all the world’s problems at the kitchen table.


*Dan Pashman: That’s AJ Fusco, Donny Dearborn, and Rob Porto from the Harrison Fire Department. AJ is no longer working as a chef, but he’s spreading the word about great firehouse cooking around the world on his blog and Instagram page, Fork and Hose Co. You can check out the firefighters in Yuba City, California, who are making posole. In Vancouver, they’re cooking up salmon eggs benedict. And at the Mohegan Tribal Fire Department in Connecticut, they’ve whipped up some scallop crudo with pickles, ramps, golden beet, and hot honey puree. Holy crap! That sounds good. Oh my gosh. Anyway, check out AJ’s Instagram, @ForkAndHoseCo and I’ll tag him in my post too.  And while you’re on Instagram, follow me, @TheSporkful.

*Dan Pashman: Please take a minute right now and connect with our show in your podcasting apps. subscribe or follow or favorite, whatever the button is for you in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher or Spotify. Please hit it right now, while you’re listening, that way you won’t miss future episode and we can hang out more. Thanks.

*Dan Pashman: Next week on the show, the one and only, Claire Saffitz! She’s got a new book out, called What’s for Dessert? We talk about holiday baking, cooking with your loved ones, and we answer some burning listener questions. That’s next week, don’t miss it.

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