Chow Time: A smokin’ good time at Anaheim Fire & Rescue’s Station 1

By Greg Hardesty

Probationary Firefighter Ryan Allred picked up the intercom inside Anaheim Fire & Rescue’s Station 1 to announce that dinner — “chow,” in firehouse parlance — was being served.

He improvised a little rhyme at the end of his announcement, which elicited some good-natured groans from his colleagues on Engine 1 and Truck 1, as well as the two EMTs assigned to the station:

“We know we’ll be diggin’ because it’s from Firefighter Biggins,” Allred said.

He was referring to Firefighter Dennis Biggins, who as station cook during a recent weekday shift decided to whip up a meal of barbecue chicken, homemade coleslaw and homemade baked beans, which included a sinful amount of bacon.

“My motto for good cooking is cheap, good and lots of it,” Biggins said.

Biggins learned that motto from a captain at the Seattle Fire Department, where he worked for six years before he joined AF&R 15 years ago, returning to the county where he grew up.

Biggins always has enjoyed cooking.

“Like everyone else,” he said, “I learned how to cook watching my mom while growing up.”

A glaze made of honey, chopped habanero peppers, salt, butter and juiced apples is brushed on the chicken during the second half of grilling.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

His specialty is Mexican food — no surprise there, since his mother is Mexican (his father is Irish).

But Biggins also is a sucker for barbecue, a favorite among AF&R firefighters.

Many Anaheim firefighters, including those at Station 1, have ponied up their own money to purchase smokers to give the meat that smoky flavor that mere barbecues can’t swing.

On this particular day, however, Station 1’s $635 smoker was on the fritz.

No worries.

A pot of baked beans, enough for everyone at the fire station, is ready to be served with the grilled chicken and coleslaw.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Biggins used the barbecue to sizzle up enough chicken breasts to feed more than a dozen Station 1 personnel.

He originally was going to make pulled-pork sandwiches, but since AF&R recently had launched a 12-week fitness challenge, Biggins opted for the more gut-friendly choice of poultry.

Biggins said he loves cooking at the firehouse.

“I enjoy keeping the guys happy,” he said.

He also regularly whips up meals for himself and his girlfriend.

Chow time on this late afternoon ended up getting delayed three times.

At 4:42 p.m., just as Biggins was about to start barbecuing the chicken, a structure fire call came in.

That turned out to be no big deal.

AF&R Engineer/Paramedic Nick Pope carefully weighs the amount of chicken he can have as part of his training during the agency’s ongoing Fitness Challenge.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

At 5:20 p.m., the chicken was on the grill.

After a few minutes, Biggins gently dipped each breast into a gooey honey glaze spiced with habanero before gingerly placing each one back on the grill.

At 5:57 p.m., it was chow time.

Just as Biggins and his comrades were about to dig in shortly after 6 p.m., both Engine 1 and Truck 1 received a medical aid call. They covered their plates in foil so their meals would stay warm by the time they returned.

And they got back to the station in about 30 minutes and then dug into their food with gusto.

Engineer/Paramedic Nick Pope, a participant in the Fitness Challenge, carefully weighed out 5 ounces of chicken.

Luckily for Pope, Biggins didn’t cave and cook pork.

“Very good, Dennis,” Capt. Michel Bowidowicz said between bites. “Thank you.”

EMT Alfred Alcaraz of Care Ambulance Service smiles as he sits down with the firefighters for dinner. In accordance with tradition, the ambulance drivers are served first as they are the most likely to be called out to an event.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Barbecue chicken meal from Anaheim Fire & Rescue Station 1

Glaze

Honey

2 habanero peppers finely chopped

3 apples juiced

A tad of butter and a pinch of salt

Baked beans

2 lbs. white beans

1.5 lbs. bacon

2 white onions finely chopped

1 whole garlic finely chopped

2 cups molasses

2.5 cups ketchup

1/2 cup mustard

Chicken broth

Coleslaw

2 heads green cabbage

1 head red cabbage

2 sweet Mayan onions

Carrots

Poppy seeds

Sugar (to taste)

Mayo (to taste)

Apple cider (to taste)

Vinegar (to taste)