Three-alarm Chili

By Patty Pensa
Staff Writer

November 8, 2002

The three men at Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Station 47 usually cook dinner together, but their latest meal was anything but ordinary -- a 5-gallon batch of chili that took five hours to prepare.

Lt. Pete McGrane, firefighter-paramedic Steve Newell and firefighter-emergency medical technician Bill Lyle made one of more than 50 recipes that will compete at the sixth annual Palm Beach County Firefighters' Chili Cook-Off on Saturday in Lake Worth.

For the second year, McGrane and Newell will wear dresses, serve their chili in mini tarts and call themselves the Two Fat Ladies after the British cooking show of the same name.

"Some of the fire chiefs are mortified when they see us in dresses and look away," said McGrane, 52.

The outfits, and the ribbing among competing stations, is just part of the fun. The event -- with prizes for best fire department chili, hottest chili and best restaurant chili -- doubles as a fund-raiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Last year, attendance was about 10,000. The first year, in 1996, about 1,000 people showed up. "This has become the premier chili cook-off in the Southeast," said Lt. Armand Nault, event co-chairman

Teams from Martin and Miami-Dade counties will join competitors from Davie, Delray Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and even New York City. Past cook-offs have featured chili with ingredients such as crab, frog legs, alligator, vegetables, goat, peanuts and chocolate.

Delray Beach Chief Kerry Koen won for best individual chili last year. For Saturday's competition, he plans to use the same three-bean chili recipe he created.

The team from Station 47, off Boynton Beach Boulevard and Florida's Turnpike, prefers to stick with a more basic recipe. The men started chopping 20 pounds of onions outside before the alarm rang and they hopped into the rescue/pumper truck on a medical call Wednesday afternoon.

"We'll be cooking till midnight if this keeps up," McGrane said.

After about an hour, they returned to the chopping, then started mincing garlic and browning 10 pounds of ground beef. The cooking became intense as they struggled to determine how many gallons they were actually making and what to do with all those onions.

"It's got a way of making itself work, but it needs some magic," McGrane said.



The Palm Beach County Firefighters Chili Cook-Off will be 2 p.m.-10 p.m. at Bryant Park,off Lake Avenue and the Intracoastal Waterway in downtown Lake Worth. Those attending can buy a $10 wristband to taste all the chili recipes or $1 tickets for individual samples.

Patty Pensa can be reached at ppensa@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6609.

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