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Let’s eat: 9 cookbooks by first responders to spice up your shift meals

Find your inner-chef with these recipes written, compiled and taste-tested by fellow first responders

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Photo/Paul Kitagaki Jr./Tribune News Service

The life of a first responder is anything but predictable. With shift work, long hours and the stress of emergency situations, finding the time and energy to eat well can be a significant challenge. Yet, the demanding nature of first responders’ work makes maintaining physical fitness and health paramount. It’s a paradox that many in emergency services navigate daily: the need to stay physically prepared for the rigors of their job, against the backdrop of a lifestyle that makes balanced eating difficult.

Recognizing this challenge, an inspiring solution has emerged from within the ranks — cookbooks written by first responders. These unique compilations offer more than just recipes; they provide a road map to nutritious, balanced meals that are feasible within the constraints of shift work. Authored by those who live the reality of juggling the demands of their roles with the need for healthful eating, these cookbooks serve as a beacon for achieving physical fitness through quality meals. They underscore the importance of nourishing the body to sustain the energy, strength and resilience required in the face of emergencies, showcasing the innovative ways first responders are tackling the challenge of eating well between calls.

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1. The Engine 2 Cookbook

Piggybacking off the success of “The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds,” former firefighter and triathlete Rip Esselstyn responded with “The Engine 2 Cookbook” which provides practical recipes for a healthy lifestyle.

2. Cooking with the Firehouse Chef

With varied recipes that are perfect for casual gatherings, barbecues, and busy weeknights, the late Firefighter Keith Young’s culinary repertoire features American favorites with crowd-pleasing starters. The delicious recipes are paired with stories and images from the firehouse, bringing Keith’s firehouse stories and cooking prowess to life.

3. Code 7 Recipes for the Soul: Cooking with First Responders

A compilation of recipes by firefighters, paramedics and dispatchers of San Mateo County to tempt your taste buds. Recipes are divided into sections and include breakfast, bread, appetizers, marinades, sauces, salads, side dishes, main dishes and desserts.

4. Put Some Flames On ‘Em!: A Chef Manny FD Comfort Food Cookbook

A firehouse chef for over 13 years, Chef Manny is now ready to share his secret recipes with you and introduce you to the man behind the firehose along the way.

5. EMT Eats: Great Recipes You Can Use, From EMTs to EMTs

Twenty-five great recipes from EMTs and other first responders that can work for big groups and families, any time, with complete and practical instructions on what you need, how to make it and great ideas for side dishes and serving.

6. The Cop Cookbook: Arresting Recipes From the World’s Favorite Cops, Good Guys, and Private Eyes

This compilation features recipes from police throughout the United States, as well as from movie and television actors who have portrayed cops.

7. Cook & Ladder Company No. 1: A Firehouse Cookbook

Created by Michael B. Riley, a 25-year fire service veteran, this compilation includes recipes that are simple and easy to make no matter what size your station kitchen may be!

8. The Firehouse Gourmet: 101 Crockpot Recipes

Compiled by chef and Firefighter Alan Bohms, known as the “Firehouse Gourmet,” this collection includes 101 simple and easy-to-make slow cooker recipes.

BONUS: Firehouse Chef — Recipes from Canada’s Firefighters

With original recipes, as well as contributions by chefs from firehouses stretching from Newfoundland to British Columbia, this is a book that gets what it’s like to prepare meals for households on the go. A team of firemen is just like a family, and The Firehouse Chef is sure to spark some new ideas.

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.