Tomato sauce may not be the first supply that comes to mind when thinking of fire stations, but the kitchen at Sarasota County Station 11 on Stickney Point Road was filled with cans of it on Oct. 10.
Enough cans for 20 gallons of chili.
The firefighters were preparing for the 23rd Annual Morton’s Firehouse Chili Cook-Off to be held Oct. 15 at Morton’s Gourmet Market for the benefit of the Firefighters Benevolent Fund.
Fortunately, work in the kitchen isn’t outside the realm of a typical firefighter’s experience.
“Part of what these guys do on a day-to-day basis, especially those on the truck, is make sure the meals are prepared,” said Chief Dan Rankin.
In fact, Station 11 has received numerous awards for its chili, including the Grand Champions award at the cook-off in 2022.
There’s more involved in the event than just chili.
One twist on the old favorite saw a fire station bring a chili ice cream served from an igloo stand, said Todd Morton, owner of Morton’s Gourmet Market.
“The competition is half chili, and almost half who can build the coolest booth,” firefighter Maxx Jakimer said.
Most important, however, is the cause.
Sara Riley, president of the Sarasota Firefighters Benevolent Fund, said although the event is the one time each year firefighters can come together to support other firefighters across the country suffering financial hardship due to illness or injury, most important is the general public's support.
Participating stations come from throughout Sarasota County as well as southern Manatee County and Longboat Key.
Guests can also look forward to live music by Conyer Walker and the Bootleggers and celebrity judges such as former Super Bowl champion David Bass and Olympic gold medal swimmer Brooke Bennett.
Bass will provide 100 free tasting tickets for first responders, nurses, military, law enforcement and teachers.
This story has been updated to correct Chief Dan Rankin's comments on the responsibilities of a firefighter.