Giving back to those who serve all of us

Published 3:15 pm Friday, June 23, 2017

Firefighters in Tryon will be eating a well-deserved meal this Monday evening, June 26.

New Jersey native and former professional drummer John Cappadona knows the risks that firefighters take to protect the rest of us. He’s also a certified master chef. That combination has prompted Cappadona, a Polk County resident for 27 years, to launch Chef & The Fire Houses, an initiative where he prepares tasty and nutritious meals for local volunteer firefighters who otherwise might not eat as well and to thank them for their service.

At the upcoming dinner, a yet-unannounced Tryon firefighter will receive a plaque and commendation.

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On Monday, Cappadona, working under the marquee Chef & The Fire Houses, will prepare some 30 complete dinners for the Tryon Fire Department. Recently, he prepared complete dinners for 25 firefighters and their spouses at the Columbus Fire Department.

Following this event, Cappadona plans to prepare dinners for Landrum firefighters although no date is set for that yet. 

Cappadona notes that regardless of state lines, Landrum, Saluda, Tryon, Columbus and Green Creek are all part of the same community.

While diners at the Columbus event were wowed by the flavor of the meal (main course was pork and chicken schnitzel) and by the basic set-up, Cappadona promised to have a nicer set-up Monday because of his sponsors. Cappadona has set up a GoFundMe account and already his friends, both local and far away, have contributed to his mission.

Of firefighters, Cappadona observed, “They don’t have enough.”

A chef for his 27 years in Polk County, Cappadona, a cancer survivor who is not yet out of the proverbial woods, said he resolved, “I’m going to work for free, and do this. I’m thankful I have a lot of good people behind me.”

Those people include the following sponsors: Tryon Federal Bank, Home Trust Bank, First Citizens Bank, Scott Lane and the Tryon Movie Theater, Burrell’s Fuels, Stephen Brady and Associates, Side Street Pizza, Vines & Stuff, Stott’s Ford, IGA, and a variety of individual friends from as far away as Los Angeles and Palm Beach and as near as Columbus.

At the Tryon fire house, the certified professional chef will prepare pork medallions fleur de lis, a tribute to the late Dieter Eger, a maitre d’, and a former manager at Spartanburg Country Club.

“He was a good man,” Cappadona said of Eger.

Also on the menu for Monday’s event is salad, broccoli and carrots, which is “a little more healthy” than some of their food intake, Cappadona explained. Dessert will be apple strudel.

Money is not a motivator for Cappadona, who said, “I don’t take a dime from Chef & The Fire Houses. You don’t need a lot of money. You’ve got to find happiness from doing something you enjoy.”

A prostate cancer survivor for the past nine years, Cappadona sings the praises of Gibbs Cancer Center, Spartanburg, where he has received treatments, and the institution he credits with keeping him going, and lowering his blood PSA (prostate-specific antigen) numbers.

“This is part of why I want to give to a good cause. I’m doing this because I don’t want to wait to do this for people. Why not do it today?  I want to bring light out there.”

This is not one of Cappadona’s easier gigs.

“I am more busy doing this than I was when I was working,” he admitted.

On Monday, Cappadona, who handled the cooking and serving duties solo at the Columbus fire department, will have Amanda Greene as an assistant.

Is Cappadona ready for this next challenge?

“I’m really geared up.”

Want to learn more about his mission to pay tribute to local firefighters through chef-prepared meals? Visit or call him at 828-335-4169.