There are 24 fire stations in Vienna, and each one has its own kitchen. All meals are cooked from scratch, and many of the recipes have been created by the firemen themselves. Former firefighter Martin Nejedly has decided to collect them and create a cookbook called “Wenn’s mal wieder heiß hergeht” (which translates as “If things heat up”). It includes over 50 recipes and anecdotes from life in the fire service.
Fire brigade spokesman, Christian Feiler, says that none of the fire stations are supplied by external caterers, and all food is homemade. “These are catastrophe centre kitchens – in the true sense of the word. It’s all designed so that if there’s a power failure, our firefighters are provided for, they won’t go hungry and can keep working.”
At the Am Hof fire station in Vienna’s first district, for example, five people are responsible for feeding 150 hungry employees. “Work starts in the kitchens at 6am with the preparatory work. We cut up meat and vegetables and everything has to be ready between 11:15 and 11:30 – when the food is distributed,” firefighter and cook Martin Steinbichl says. However, if the fire alarm goes off whilst the food is being made the cooks drop their spoons and don their firefighting gear.
Cookbook author Martin Nejedly was a firefighter for many years and has stories to tell. He said that one colleague who joined the fire service as a young man was asked to help out in the kitchen, for the first time in his life. “He was told to add nutmeg to a puree – although no one mentioned that you have to grate it first. So he just put whole nutmegs in! He still gets teased about this, 24 years later.”