​Third Assistant Chief William (“JR”) Renten, First Assistant Chief Bill Kelly and Chief Tim Corwin with culinary team members Kevin Kosciuszko, Frank Greenwood, Kenneth Nabrezny, Franklin Dominguez, Lane Bubka and Baycan Fideli present a $4,000 donation check to Autism Speaks manager/field development officer Eddie Russo Dec. 4 at Riverhead Fire Department headquarters. Photo: Denise Civiletti

A Long Island-based organization dedicated to assisting people with autism and their families is $4,000 richer tonight, thanks to the creative culinary efforts of six Riverhead volunteer firefighters.

Yes, culinary efforts.

The six-man team won the Famous Food Festival “Battle of the Badges” cook-off in October, defeating a team from the Suffolk County Police Department.

The contest, in the style of TV competitions like “Chopped,” required competitors to prepare a three-course meal and a cocktail with ingredients provided in a “mystery basket.”

Riverhead Fire Department’s chefs created a pizza appetizer, a fish and duck entree with Brussels sprouts and mushrooms, and a dessert of Crème anglaise with a chocolate sauce.

Team captain Frank Greenwood is a Suffolk County Community College Culinary Institute graduate and worked in high-end restaurants on the East End. Team member Franklin Dominguez is also a graduate of the Riverhead culinary school and currently works as a sous chef at a Bridgehampton country club. Mixologist Lane Bubka has 20 years bartending experience.

So, maybe the Riverhead team had a bit of an edge on the competition.

RFD winning chefs, from left: Kenneth Nabrezny, Franklin Dominguez, Frank Greenwood, Lane Bubka and Kevin Kosciuszko. Courtesy photo.

The team decided to donate the $4,000 top prize to Autism Speaks. Two team members have young relatives on the autism spectrum.

“We know how difficult it is,” said Greenwood, who has a family member affected by the disorder. “These families need support.”

Autism Speaks advocates for and supports people with autism and their families. The group works to educate the public to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, and to advance research into the causes of autism and the development of better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions.

Autism Speaks provides grants to families coping with autism, said Eddie Russo, manager/field development for the organization.

“People may not realize the challenges families face, or how expensive it can be to procure the assistance needed for children and youth affected by the disorder,” said team member Baycan Fideli, who also has a family member on the autism spectrum.

The Riverhead Fire Department team defeated a Manorville Fire Department team in round one of the competition in August. Their winning menu consisted of a pizza appetizer, hangar steak with mushroom cream sauce, and mango strawberry sorbet and chocolate mousse with caramel sauce.

The Suffolk County Police Department team defeated the FDNY “Famous Meatballers” team in July and went on to face the Riverhead Fire Department Team in October.

The cook-off competitions were judged by professional chefs.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.