At the 2nd annual Bay Area BBQ Championship ahead of the A’s game against the Mariners this Saturday, you’ll see celebrity chefs like Dr. BBQ (aka Ray Lampe). You’ll see celebrity baseball stars like Jonny Gomes.

You may have to seek out the Oakland Fire Department’s corner of the People’s Choice category.  But having tasted what Station 12 is bringing, I recommend looking for it, and saving some space.

Oakland Fire Truck
Yes, but you should see the Wolf in the kitchen. Photo: KQED/Rachael Myrow

Lieutenant James Patrick Troy — or “JP” — out of Oakland Fire Station 12 says the firefighters aren’t bringing a lot of, em, heat to the competition. But firefighters famously eat well, and Station 12 in Chinatown is no exception. Troy’s team, the “Dragonslayers,” features at least two guys with experience working in restaurants.

Top Chef Zach Fraser
Top Chef Zach Fraser with wok in Firehouse kitchen. Photo: KQED/Polly Stryker

The team’s Top Chef is Zach Fraser, who knows enough Cantonese to shop in Chinatown. To say that a white guy speaking Cantonese charms the shop keepers is an understatement. They beam at him. “Jo San!” he calls out as he enters Yuen Hop on Webster, and the cashier calls back “Joooo Saaan!”

Fraser winces at the phrase “Asian-style,” but it’s a fair description of the way he cooks. And it fairly describes the menu he’s putting together for Saturday:  marinated chicken seared on the grill, topped with black sesame seeds and a sweet, sour sauce made with plums. Plus a side of coleslaw with an “Asian” (sorry, Zach) take on Green Goddess dressing.

Now I have to admit, I was kinda hoping for tri-tip and Caesar Salad. After all, Saturday night is traditionally Steak and Caesar Night with the Oakland Fire Department.

But the Chef has his reasons. Since the firefighters, their union and the Championship organizers are forking out for the food, red meat for hordes of people is a tad expensive. Also, the  romaine lettuce in Chinatown is not always up to snuff. Like any cook worth his salt, Fraser makes something delicious out of what’s available. And as it happens, plums are in season.

Listen to Zach Fraser in action:

Zach prepping in the firehouse kitchen
Zach making use of a bunch of plums straight off his father-in-law’s tree. Photo: KQED/Polly Stryker

Here are the recipes. Fraser doesn’t do portion sizes — everything is to taste, so adjust accordingly…

Recipe: Chicken Marinade

Skinless chicken thighs
Soy Sauce
Seasoned Rice Vinegar
Sesame Oil
Sriracha Sauce
Chinese five spice powder
Shredded fresh ginger
Shredded fresh garlic
Chopped green onions

Mix everything but the chicken in a bowl. Then put the raw chicken in. Let sit for 45 minutes to 2 hours.

chicken on grill
Marinade does double duty as a basting sauce when the chicken hits the grill. Photo: KQED/Polly Styker

Recipe: Dragonslayer Chinatown BBQ Sauce

Tsingtao beer
Splash of rice wine vinegar
Hoisin sauce
Soy sauce
Plum sauce
Fresh plums if in season

Saute onion, garlic and ginger until soft. Deglaze with beer (if not cooking at a firehouse, where all alcohol is forbidden.) Add all other ingredients and cook down until it thickens. Check your flavors and adjust to taste. Push sauce through a sieve.  Great on pork as well as chicken.

Recipe: Coleslaw dressing

Rice wine vinegar
Toasted sesame oil
Canola or other neutral oil
Soy sauce
Toasted sesame seeds

Blend all ingredients except for the seeds, cilantro and half the avocado, which lends a nice creaminess to the dressing. After you’ve shredded your cabbage and carrots, toss with sliced avocado, chopped cilantro and dressing. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

The final dish
The final dish. Photo: KQED/Rachael Myrow


Rachael Myrow

From KQED’s Bureau in San Jose, Rachael Myrow covers politics, economics, technology, food and culture in a vast region extending from Burlingame to Edenvale to Fremont. This follows more than seven years waking at 3 am to host the daily version of KQED's California Report, broadcast on NPR affiliates throughout the state during NPR's Morning Edition. She still guest hosts for The California Report and Forum, blogs for Bay Area Bites, and files for NPR and PRI’s The World. Before KQED, she worked for Marketplace and KPCC in Los Angeles.

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