Charles Razenson fired up his red offset smoker just after 6 a.m. on Friday outside Fairway Market in Westbury and began prepping his signature dish, brisket and special “cupcake” chicken.
Razenson, whose baby back ribs won the inaugural Firefighters Museum BBQ Cook-Off in 2009, was back to bring home the prize for the Bethpage Fire Department.
Razenson competed against teams from the Rockville Centre and East Meadow fire departments.
“I know I have a good chance of winning,” Razenson said. “I feel that my main competition is Rockville Centre because Jason Green, the head chef of the team, is also a big competitor.”
Turns out, he was right. For the first time in the cook-off’s history, there was a tie for first place Rockville Centre and Bethpage both won, while East Meadow finished third.
The two first-place finishers received $500 Fairway gift cards and East Meadow got a $100 gift card. They will be able to use the cards on a special shopping event in September on a day yet to be decided.
On that day shoppers at the Westbury Fairway location can choose to have Fairway donate a percentage of their purchase amounts to the Nassau County Firefighters Museum, which joined with Fairway to host Friday’s event. The cook-off was started to educate the public about fire safety for the July 4 holiday, including subjects like unsafe grilling techniques and shooting off fireworks.
The judges included Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano, Fairway executive chef Alan Risenburger, Westbury Fire Department Chief Doug Ingram, Nassau County Firefighters Museum president Angelo Catalano and Anton Community Newspapers Publisher Angela Anton. The dishes were judged based on taste, presentation and originality.
Risenburger praised Razenson chicken cupcake’s originality, and said he enjoyed each team’s ribs.
“I looked for the normal things today in the food like the quality, taste and texture,” said Risenburger, 44, of Smithtown. “But the one thing that I really look for with barbecue food is messiness, because you really can’t have a barbecue without that.”
As a sure sign of quality work, the judges were constantly reaching for napkins in between bites.
While the barbecue took center stage, Fourth of July fire safety was also a major theme.
“The main reason we’re out here is to show that not only can barbecuing can be fun, but you do it safely and very easily,” said John Murray, chief instructor of the Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center. “We want to make sure that people know how to barbecue safely so that there are no incidents.”
As for the other Fourth of July tradition, Razenson added, “Leave the fireworks to the professionals.”
With Brittany Wait