Chef Manny Washington—Orlando Fire Department’s finest chef

“Chef Manny” 11141778_377244982472413_4444921235404832610_nhas been cooking since he was eight. He started with desserts–in fact, the first thing he learned to cook was southern staple sweet potato pie. Next he graduated to sides, and finally to main dishes.

He learned from his grandmother, then his mother and his father, also a firefighter (in Miami).

He’s best known for his appearance on national cooking shows, which he’s been doing for only a year. (Since August, 2015, when he first appeared on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen.) The one thing that scared him the most about competition cooking? Plating. “Firefighters don’t require plating; they just want good tasting food.”

With all this cooking, you’d think he majored in something culinary, but Washington, it turns out, is kind of a science geek. From Valencia, he got an AS in Emergency Medical Services. From there, he went on to UCF, where he got a BS in Chemistry Education, with a minor in Emergency Management. “My favorite class was Organic Chemistry I with Dr. Eric Crumpler (west campus). By far one of the hardest classes I have ever taken, but I love how I get to take an acid naturalization and apply it to work.”

He is an engineer/paramedic with the Orlando Fire Department, stationed at Fire Station 1 (downtown). mc7_706-16-15-lobsterelim_0313_hires2He works on the Hazardous Materials team, which works with everything from gas spills to weapons of mass destruction.

How does he balance his career as a firefighter with this new “career” as a part time gourmet chef? Due to their schedule (24 hours on, 48 off) he has the time to do live food demos, private dinners, and even cook for other fire stations nationwide. His favorite thing to cook is skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, white rice, black beans and caramelized plantains. Did we mention he’s from Miami?

You can follow Chef Manny at @chefmannyfd on Facebook, Instagram, Twittter and YouTube.