The East Orange Fire Department kitchen team is above the rest
The kitchen of the local fire station is often a place where one can find good home cooked meals.
There is a firefighting team making a name for themselves in New Jersey and beyond with their cuisine.
Meet the Rattling Pans of the East Orange Fire Department – a team of four fire station cooks who, when it comes to the rich tradition of fire station cooking, are arguably the cream of the crop. cream in the Garden State.
“We go into service and say, ‘Who wants to eat? What do we eat for dinner? ‘ And whoever wants to eat is what we cook, ”says firefighter Mark Gaeta.
The Rattling Pans just made their World Cooking Championship debut last month in Chile in South Carolina, where they took fourth place in the firehouse division. In 2020, they won first prize in the gastronomic division of Cooked and Uncorked – an event that is considered the first cooking for New Jersey firefighters.
Much of their success is due to their team leader – Vhaashtay Ra El, a fire alarm operator who owned and operated several restaurants in New Jersey, including the Energy Bar in Montclair and the Crossroads Café in East Orange. She joined the East Orange Fire Department 11 years ago.
The team is complemented by Gaeta, whose father owned F&B Fine Catering in Bloomfield, Ernest Cooke and Robert Springs.
When News 12’s Brian Donohue visited the team, they were making the chili they had made for the competition. The list of ingredients proves that Ra El studied the art of the right chili. There’s suya, a Nigerian spice blend that she gets from a secret source in Newark. There’s the smoked Alaskan porterage beer a friend sends him from Alaska, along with a long list of a dozen different spices and sauces that come in the jar. The meat is a combination of buffalo, lamb, chopped short ribs, and adzuki beans.
But Donohue says after spending some time in the kitchen, he realized the secret ingredient was camaraderie.
“It means a lot, because we bonded. We have developed a great friendship, ”says Ra El.
“I had no idea how close we were going to be doing this,” says Gaeta. “You go into the fire station and rely on each other, and then we go in there, and again, you rely on each other. “
The Rattling Pans won the February 2020 Cooked and Uncorked event for New Jersey firehouse cooks with a short rib arancini dish with herbed ricotta marinara. The competition did not take place this year due to the pandemic, so they still hold the trophy.