The parking lot behind Albany’s city hall may not have been the most glamorous location for a cooking competition.
And the cooking stations themselves, camp stoves on nondescript plastic tables, were not quite as fancy as one of those television kitchens.
And though the food itself was made from canned goods and other non-perishables, it was unquestionably good. And in a disaster the food could be a lifesaver.
The Emergency Food Cookoff Challenge on Saturday invited three locals to demonstrate recipes that could be prepared in a disaster situation in a competition modeled on the Food Network’s “Chopped.”
Chuck Perino, Albany’s emergency manager, said he was inspired to put on the event by a similar one in Arizona as a way to raise awareness for the need to prepare for disasters ... but also to spread the message in a way that didn’t scare people.
“I’m tired of being the bearer of bad news,” he said. “I wanted to do something fun.”
Perino added that part of the intent was to let people know they could prepare for disaster without having to stock up on dehydrated foods or energy bars.
“It’s easy to just pick up an extra can of tuna or whatever and there’s a goodness to that food because it is familiar,” he said.
Perino said the city collected recipe submissions online and picked the top three to compete in the challenge. The three finalists each got to keep the camp stove they cooked on during the competition.
The dishes were Fault-line Fish Fritters, made with canned tuna; Chicken CANtastrophe, a chicken corn chowder, and Four Alarm Queso served with a Wildfire Tortilla soup and corn chips.
Jacqueline Murphy, of Albany, won the competition with the queso and soup.
She said she experimented with recipes in advance and one of her big discoveries was how well beef jerky can work in a soup.
“As long as it’s cooked for about 15 minutes it softens, but still has that jerky flavor,” she said.
Murphy said it’s important to be prepared for a disaster because even a power outage can disrupt how easily people can cook.
Murphy added that it was her first cooking competition.
“I’m proud I put myself out there and tried something different,” she said.
Perino said he hopes to bring a more expansive competition back next year.
Perino encouraged anyone interested in learning more about preparing for disasters to visit the emergency management page on the city of Albany’s website, at https://www.cityofalbany.net/em.