Fire department team up with Robert Bateman high school culinary class in a cook off that focused on good food and kitchen safety.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

October 8th, 2015


Each year the Fire Department holds an Open House which Fire Chief Tony Bavota describes as a day for the family that doesn’t cost a dime and “if they buy a hot dog from the service group they get it at cost – a great inexpensive family outing”.

But this year there was no Open House because the fire department HQ is undergoing a major renovation – so they had to come up with a new idea.  And they certainly came up with what can only be described as a winner.

The Fire Department partnered with the Culinary class at Robert Bateman High school for a cook off between four teams. Each team was made up of a fire fighter and two students. Murray Zehr who runs the Culinary program said there are 300 students in the class where the focus is on nutrition and kitchen safety. The cooks had an hour to prepare the meal.

There were very good reasons for using a cook off as the focus for the event – 53% of the fires in private homes are the result of unattended cooking.

FIRE Sam acting captain

Acting Captain Sam Wakunick taught the Gazette reporter a couple of things about unattended cooking. It was embarrassing.

This reporter has some direct experience with unattended cooking and the Burlington Fire department. Shortly after moving into a new home and getting used to the stove I wandered away from the kitchen and then heard that beep beep sound of the smoke alarm. There was nothing I could do to shut the damn thing off the way you can in most houses. I called security and told them everything was under control but it was too late – the fire department was on the way and before I knew it Sam Wakunick was standing at my door in full fire fighter kit. I sheepishly explained what I had done – she smiled – Sam wasn’t a guy – and asked if she could just look through the unit – which wasn’t exactly tidy.

Months later I show up to cover a news event and there is Sam – reminding me not to wander from the kitchen when food is cooking.

The Fire department media people working with the Bateman staff came up with a really fun and instructive program that made the point – fires are dangerous and they can be prevented. It was also an opportunity to showcase the cooking talent at Bateman

FIRE table 2  tattoo guy

Fire fighter Peter Temoche explains a point to a member of his team Kristan Dymad – Alicia Ann Husk was also on the team.

Each of the cooking teams was given a recipe and the ingredients – there was a table with all kinds of oils, wines, and fresh vegetables that cooks could dip into.

To jazz up the event – a fire fighter with the name “That Guy” who wandered from stove to stove and just became a pain in the butt. He would drop something into the food or give one of the cooks a penalty which meant they had to sit in a penalty box – and not be able to take part in the food preparation.

There was a party atmosphere that brought out the newly minted Director of Education Stuart Miller and Mayor Goldring who advised the students that he had absolutely no culinary skills but was prepared to serve as a judge for the cook off. The Mayor mentioned that during his recent trip to China he learned to ask what he was being served; “you sometimes didn’t want to know” he said. Burlington’s taxpayers however might want to know what the Mayor was doing in China for close to a week.

FIRE  table 1 winners

Firefighter Dave Reid and Bateman students Vanessa Plouffe and Alisha Hales look into the ingredients they were given to cook up a meal in one hour.

Fire fighter Dave Reid and students Vanessa Plouffe and Alisha Hales were on a team called the Dragons.


Fire fighter Chris Grieve takes his cooks Cameron Davies and J.R. Kelertas through the approach he thinks they should take to preparing the meal.

Chris Grieve, the fire fighter was on a team with students Cameron Davies and J. R Kelertas – they decided to be known as Five Arm Alarm; one of the students had a cast on his arm

Fire fighter Peter Tamoche teamed up with Krista Dymod and Alicia Ann Husk – they wanted to be called the Hot Tamales.

FIRE table 3 - student strong look

Ty Solomon gets rapt attention from a student during the cook off.

Ty Solomon and students Bryce Walker and Nick Shaw titled themselves: Kill it with Fire.


The Bateman high school kitchen with its four gas stoves was a bit of a zoo with cameras all over the place and students scooting around picking up supplies and utensils.

The kitchen at Bateman was a bit of a zoo with students photographers wandering all over the place, the Cogeco cable News camera kept popping up while cooks were scooting around getting equipment and ingredients while Dennis Hayes kept calling out trivia questions and announcing penalties and in the last fifteen minutes telling everyone how little time they left.

Students and other observers looked on from the back of the kitchen.

The judging was pretty tight: winning team got 75 points with two teams getting 71 points. They were judged on presentation and taste.

FIRE ist an 2nd place cooks

Dave Reid’s team, on the left took first place while Ty Solomon throws his arms up and congratulates Bryce Walker and Nick Shaw who took second. There were less than four points between each team.

Fire fighter Dave Reid and students Plouffe and Hales took first place.

FIRE girl ready to be kitted up

While students were cooking up their storm other students were trying on fire fighter equipment.

The fire department had three pieces of equipment parked outside the school and all kinds of fire fighter equipment set out for students to try on. There were 19 fire fighters helping out “on their own time” added Chief Bavota.


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