Firefighters are well-known for their hearty, delicious home-cooked dishes.
Fire Station 41, 180 4th St. SW, in Largo has a professionally trained Italian chef who cooks many of the meals for his shift. Largo Firefighters generally work 24-hour shifts with 48 hours off in between.
During their 24-hour shifts, Largo firefighters pool their personal money and cook lunches and suppers together. As with many families, the workload is spread out, with the usual scenario of the crew on the ladder truck doing the grocery shopping, a couple team members doing the food preparation and other team members cleaning the dishes.
Meet the Chef
A native of Naples (the one in Italy), Luca Petrone joined Station 41 as a full-time firefighter/EMT in late September.
Petrone, 32, went from his Italian family kitchen to five years of collegiate hospitality management education, which included professional culinary training.
"I love to cook. Most of the time they let me cook (at the fire station). It is not like work. When you do something you are passionate about, it is not like a job," Petrone said.
Two of Petrone's passions, cooking and firefighting, developed at the same time. During his time in culinary training near Rome, Petrone served 10 mandatory months in the Italian military, where his assignment included being at a fire department, working in dispatch and learning and getting licensed to drive all of the vehicles, trucks and buses, he said.
After moving to America, Petrone spent a decade at a family-owned Italian restaurant in Indian Rocks Beach before he was able to find full-time employment with the Largo Fire District, where he can still cook when he wants.
What's On the Firehouse Menu?
Firehouse cooking has some special considerations, of course. While pasta may seem like the staple of Italian cooking, boiling noodles does not work if the crew gets a call in the middle of the cooking process. The firefighters must make dishes that can be quickly placed into the oven on low heat, Petrone said.
Thursday's meal was baked sausage and peppers with potatoes, which Petrone started by sauteeing the onions, peppers and potatoes on the stovetop before finishing in the oven. As the food cooked, a couple firefighters popped in and out of the kitchen checking on the cooking progress.
"You need some kind of carb, for the energy we use when we get a call," Petrone said. "But the food needs to be healthy; we don't want to be overweight."
After about an hour, Petrone pulled a huge casserole out of the oven while another firefighter called out over the loud speaker that supper was ready.
And just as the crew gathered around the table made by the firefighters, the signal sounded, sending the rescue unit out on a call.