Temperatures soared, grills roared and taste buds adored at Atria Senior Living in Lynbrook on July 18 when resident chef Natalia Acosta went head-to-head against firefighters Deborah and Guy Bove in the “Heat vs. Sweet: A Battle to the Final Bell” chef showdown.
The rules for the competition required each chef to incorporate peppers — either sweet or hot — into their dishes and see what the best possible combination was.
Acosta’s dish was lobster macaroni and cheese, topped with goat cheese and served in a flame roasted poblano pepper. “I have a friend who is a foodie, and I was telling him I’m not sure if I want to do what I want to do, and he said, ‘Macaroni and cheese rocks,’” Acosta said. “I said. ‘You know what? I’m going to put that in a poblano pepper and see how it works out.’ I also added the goat cheese for a kick.”
For the 41-year-old Salisbury, Md. resident, becoming a chef was less a choice and more happenstance. “Funny, I was 21 and married, and I had the choice of staying home or going to school,” she said. “I’m a very independent woman, so I said, ‘Ok, I’m going to go to school.’” Acosta said she soon realized that she was unsure what she wanted to pursue, so she took a walk with her mother and stumbled upon a cooking school, then decided to give it a shot.
“Cooking was never a passion,” she recounted. “It was never like, ‘Oh, I want to be a chef’ it was more that I just fell into it.”
The Bove duo took a different route and served steak tidbits with peppers substituting for bread, accompanied by Spanish-style rice. “The rice was something that my brother and I concocted over the years — I’m talking years ago — but I haven’t made it in a long time,” said Guy Bove, a Malverne resident and firefighter. Guy said he and Deborah were trying to come up with something to compliment peppers when they generated the idea of steak tidbits and substituting the bread “It worked out pretty well,” he said. “It was a gamble.”
Firefighting is more than just a job for Deborah and Guy, it’s a family affair. “I followed in my father’s and brother’s footsteps,” said Deborah, a Malverne resident and Valley Stream firefighter whose father is a resident at Atria Lynbrook. “I’m still a member and have been a member of the department for 32 years.
As a firefighter, Deborah teaches the bailout system, which, she explained, is what the firefighters use when they bail out of the windows of a building with ropes. She said it was exciting to teach.
The Boves son, Nicholas, recently joined the Malverne Fire Department and added to the family dynasty of firefighting. “When you look into the history of each member, somewhere and somehow, they’re related to somebody else in the departments,” Guy said. “It’s family and always has been.”
After the two dishes were served to the judges — a panel that included Herald intern reporter Frank Gargano — and the votes were tallied, the pair edged out a victory over Acosta by a slim margin.
But in the end, the competition was all for the residents. “I think it’s a little entertaining for them,” said Angela Barry, the community business director at Atria Lynbrook. “They like to eat, so they like to come and try something different. It was nice this year that we had a resident’s family members as competitors to our own chef, so I think it was nice and interactive.”