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R.I. firefighter competes on PBS cooking show

Providence Firefighter Dan Rinaldi is one of 10 contestants on “The Great American Recipe”


Firefighter Dan Rinaldi competes on “The Great American Recipe,” which will run on PBS channels.

Photo/Providence Fire Department

By Leila Merrill

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Providence Firefighter Dan Rinaldi will be one of 10 contestants on a cooking show that debuts Friday.

“The Great American Recipe” will appear on PBS channels throughout the country.

Rinaldi told Rhode Island Monthly that he grew up cooking with his mother, grandmother and other family members in Providence.

Now he cooks for his fellow firefighters.

“I usually make a meat sauce for the house — that’s a pretty consistent one. The recipe is passed down from my grandmother. You know how Sunday gravy is—it’s kind of like chili in Texas. Every firehouse is cooking it on any given day, and everyone has their own version of it,” he said.

“During the wintertime, I’ll make her pasta e fagioli or a lentil soup.”

How did he get to be on the TV show? Rinaldi said he responded to an email that led to an application process.

He said his 34 years of serving as a firefighter gave him an advantage in the cooking competition.

“I wouldn’t say I was more prepared than any of the other people there because cooking is their profession, or at least a big thing they do. But I was prepared for the long days. I felt as though being a firefighter in a busy firehouse gave me a little bit of an edge when it came to mental fatigue. Because most people aren’t used to being up twenty-four hours straight or running around like crazy. Some filming days were sixteen, seventeen, eighteen hours long, and then you’re up early the next morning for more. I was like, ‘Alright, that’s right in my wheelhouse. I can still function when it comes to that.’ I would say that was one of the things that maybe offset it a little, whereas other people may have had more experience in cooking in the kitchens.”

He described the show as fast-paced and fun.

“It’s a different kind of stress. It’s a little different than crawling down a smoke-filled three-decker! But it was good, we had fun.”

During episode one, Rinaldi makes Rhode Island-Style Fried Calamari.