When the bell sounded Wednesday night in the Clarendon Ballroom, Arlington County Fire Capt. Bo Bennett responded to a different kind of call.
He and firefighter David Harrison made up Team Blaze & Glaze, and they were facing off against Bayou Bakery Chef David Guas and Sous Chef Sara Siegel in a timed live-cooking competition to create the best appetizer.
It's part of what's becoming an annual event to benefit the Arlington Food Assistance Center, which serves more than 3,500 individuals — one-third of them children. Chefs vs. Chiefs 2: Bring the Heat sold about 200 tickets ahead of time plus more at the door.
Contestants were limited to ingredients they could find in the food pantry — though that turned out to not be much of a limitation at all.
Bennett and Harrison made homemade ravioli with homemade marinara and — what really seemed to impress — homemade ricotta. Firefighters usually don't have time to prepare such meals, Bennett said, and are forced to rely on "the boxed stuff."
The raviloi captured the taste buds of only one of the three judges, who agreed the dish was a hearty meal for firefighters but ultimately chose the appetizer prepared by Guas and Siegel.
The Bayou Bakery team prepared tuna rillettes using canned tuna, potatoes and cream cheese. They served it in small mason jars accompanied by hard-boiled eggs, pickled carrots and grilled rosemary bread, garnished with mustard.
"Considering this is everything from the food pantry… I would think I'm in a five-star restaurant," said Lebanese Taverna Chef Grace Shea, one of the judges.
Arlington Food Assistance Center Charles Executive Director Charles Meng presented Guas with his prize, a golden eggplant. The trophies, it turned out, were molded from actual eggplants that had been donated to the food pantry.
"Opening my little neighborhood joint was all about being involved in the community," Guas told Patch. "… That's always been my thing."
Fire Capt. Claude Conde and firefighter Joaquin Ibarra — Team Dynamo — won Round 2, the soup or salad competition, thanks to their roasted fall vegetable soup. That beat the chicken tortilla soup prepared by Chef Alfredo Solis and Sous Chef Chris Smith from Fuego Cocina y Tequileria.
Chef Shannon Overmiller of the Majestic won the entree round with her chicken cacciatore.
Meng told Patch he hopes to continue Chefs vs. Chiefs and make each year better than the last.
Arlington Fire Chief James Schwartz, a firehouse cook himself once upon a time, said the event "goes right to the heart of what we do as an organization — helping the community, just in a slightly different way."