A Firefighter with Hidden Culinary Talents
L.A. Fire Captain John Marasco has a hidden talent that is no secret to anyone who has worked with him. Working as a firefighter instructor at Panorama City’s Drill Tower 81, he also enjoys creating and sharing his culinary delights.
John grew up around a fast-paced baking and cooking environment on the east coast. His dad ran a bakery which gave him a helping of experience that has served him well. After a few years in the Navy which eventually moved him to California he completed his military service. While exploring his options he completed a three-month long course on bread baking. Shortly afterward he made his career rise by joining the LAFD.
“You just have to find your passion. You’d be amazed at how many people here have hidden talents. There’s a place for all these talents to be used.” During his probation period he says, “Word got out about my cooking skills and they gave me the chance to show off my chops.” He quickly won over the crew and earned his reputation.
He observes another kind of hunger now, halfway through his two-year Drill Tower teaching assignment. “I train new recruits over a 22-week program, and I can see they have a desire for the job. You get to know them personally. People you work with are passionate about their work and are amazing people.”
His job is to evaluate each recruit once they’re ready to graduate from the initial training process. “Once they pass that, they go on to their probation period as a firefighter.”
Notably, he went through his own drill tower program with Captain Jen Wilcox and has since donated some time to Girls Camp along with other firefighters.
After his current assignment wraps, John hopes to transfer all of his talents to a fire station in Downtown L.A.
Awards and Competitions
Expertly maneuvering around the time and quantity constraints of cooking in a fire station, John has kicked it up a notch. In 2015, he cooked, under pressure of a watchful audience, when The L.A. Times held a firefighter cook-a-meal competition. “There were prizes for the top two,” he says. “I came in third.”
The Food Network’s popular show “Holiday Baking Championship” featured him as a contestant. He enjoyed his experience there but could have done without the extreme hours. “I was on set all day, which is a challenge when you have small kids.” He also says, “I would like to do more cooking competitions in the future. One that just has you cook onsite or bring a dish would be something more my speed.”
John wants his talent for culinary creations and love of the art to grow into a family affair. “I’d like to pass the cooking tradition along to my kids when they are older.” He also mentions that his wife enjoys entertaining and hosting family functions.
By Madeline Wright
Fun Food Facts
How much food do you make at once?
“My meals can typically feed 20 people.”
Cooking at the fire station has given him the confidence and chops to feed large groups easily.
Do you have a specialty?
“I bake and cook whatever people prefer. Italian. Thai. BBQ, or anything else!”
Any signature baking items?
“Cakes, eclairs, signature chocolate chip cookies, chocolate peanut butter cake, strawberry cake, peach cobbler cake with icing, and an almond cream cheese pound cake.”
Try LAFD Captain John Marasco’s Almond Cream Cheese Pound Cake recipe!
Almond Cream Cheese Pound Cake
- 1 1/2 cups butter
- 8 oz almond paste
- 1 8oz - package cream cheese
- 3 cups white sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 6 eggs
- 3 cups cake flour
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Grease one 10-inch Bundt pan.
- Cream together the butter, cream cheese, almond paste and sugar until light. Stir in the vanilla and the almond extracts. Add the flour and the eggs alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.