Recipes That Sizzle

Cover of Brampton's new fire fighter cookbook.

Fire fighters in Brampton have given an old tradition a new twist.

This year, to raise money for local charities like juvenile diabetes, they've ditched the fire fighter's calendar for a cookbook called, "Fire & Spice: Recipes to the Rescue Book"

But don't worry connoisseurs of fine form. Its pages still feature those steamy, half-naked men now paired with their favourite recipes.

Brampton fire fighter Cody Barteaux and his recipe for mandarin almond salad and spinach and feta turkey burgers.

"People seem to feel that the calendar is 'been there, done that' but the book is an ingenious way to bring both the recipe and sexy fire fighter together," says Brampton fire fighter and producer of the cookbook Brent Robillard.

The idea is a natural fit for fire fighters. Since they are on call 24/7, they eat their meals together in the fire hall. 

"Fire fighters themselves are one of very few businesses or companies where each guy sits down at a table together to eat a meal, cooked by the guys, every single night. What company does that?"

To help launch the book, the fire fighters teamed up with Brampton's Champions for Change, to host a healthy cooking class at fire hall 212.

It was an easy sell for this crowd! 


Champions for Change, a grassroots group of local wellness professionals, rounded up a few health professionals to volunteer their time for the class including a chef to demo one of the cookbook's meals and offer healthy alternatives. 

The menu? A turkey burger with feta cheese and spinach; a baby spinach salad with mandarins, toasted almonds and poppy seed dressing; and roasted sweet potatoes on the side. Easy, tasty and pretty healthy.

So what was the chef's healthy alternative?  A simple switch.

The salad dressing called for 1 tsp of white refined sugar, but the chef opted for 1 tsp of honey.

"By changing out that one ingredient in the recipe he says he was able to make a cleaner and less refined version of itself," reports Robillard.

David Howie is executive chef at Catering by Gregory's (the company also donated all the food so everyone in the room could eat).

"I got a great response. Fire fighters included," said Howie. 

"People are tired of habitual eating, processed foods and grabbing what they can on the run."

Howie says the secret to healthy eating is cooking it yourself and buying fresh and local. If a package has more than 3-4 ingredients, leave it at the store. 

That may be easier said than done, but Howie believes the lure of convenience risks a lifetime of health problems.

"We have to realize for our kids and our own health that we have to take the time to eat healthier."

Back at the fire hall, there's another reason fire fighters take time to make their meals and eat together. Brampton Fire Chief Andy MacDonald says it's good for his staff's emotional health as well.

"Breaking bread is one of the ways we work through peer support. It's pretty cathartic ... the day after a bad call we'll say how about dinner tonight. It's part of the bonding, support and healing process. The same as it is for a family."

Now they are part of a larger, community-based, extended family. Champions for Change hopes to make the cooking class a regular event!

left to right: Cody Barteaux, Jessica Barbosa, Margaret Wallis-Duffy, David Howie, Jennifer Thomas, Pamela Moore, Lisa Blanden, Paula Groenendyk, Denis Pamerleau

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