Howard firehouse chefs bring a taste of Maryland to firefighter cookbook

When Howard County firefighters Barry Griffin and Kevin Weisenborn aren't out fighting fires, they're most likely in the firehouse kitchen, organizing menus and creating new dishes. At each of their respective stations — Weisenborn is at Station 13 in Glenwood, Griffin is at Station 10 at Rivers Park in Columbia — the men are known for their cooking.

But you don't have to take firefighter training or battle blazes to sample their fare — now anyone can sample Weisenborn's sun-dried tomato and basil chicken and Griffin's rosemary chicken dish.

Each recently had a recipe selected to be included in the cookbook "Playing with Fires: Firehouse Recipes and Their Chefs."

Published by Smoke Alarm Media, the cookbook features firehouse recipes from all 50 states and several countries. Proceeds benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Griffin and Weisenborn were chosen to represent Maryland.

"The recipes I felt like were extremely representative of what we eat in the station. They're good recipes," said Steven W. Siler, co-author of the cookbook and a firefighter in Washington state.

A former chef for five years at the Hyatt in Washington, D.C., Griffin, 35, routinely cooks for about 10 to 12 people when he's on duty.

"It needs to be quick, simple and good," Griffin said of the meals he prepares.  "If it's a slower station, you have time to experiment a little bit."

Experimenting is how Weisenborn started cooking, he said.

"I've been cooking since about 10 or 12," Weisenborn, 32, said. "I would look at recipes and watch people on TV. I would substitute stuff I didn't like with stuff I did."

When they submitted the recipes for the tomato-basil chicken and rosemary chicken dishes for consideration in the book, it was the first time either had had to write down their culinary creations.

"I tend to fly from the hip," Weisenborn said of his cooking style. "No measurements."

"I don't even go by cookbooks," Griffin added. "It's all by taste or memory."

Being a firehouse chef also means being frugal, and both men say they plan their meals around weekly sales.

"I don't go in with a specific thing in mind," Weisenborn said. "I see what is on sale."

"We all chip in some money," Griffin said of the personnel at his station. "We don't have a budget."

The cookbook, which is available from Amazon, provides not only recipes, but also information about the various stations and facts about firefighting.

"It is a snapshot of a firefighter's life," Siler said of the book. "They are not gourmet recipes. Making meals is a way firefighters get to spend time together, relaxing and bonding."

While Weisenborn and Griffin enjoy cooking, both say being a firefighter is their true passion.

"I enjoyed the atmosphere of the Fire Department and the schedule," said Weisenborn, who used to work as a computer technician. "I chose to do this."

"It is the greatest job in the world," Griffin said.  "I'll be a firefighter for 30 years, I hope."

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