Jeff Mercer of the Los Angeles City Fire Department says cooking and firefighting go hand in hand.
“You have to know how to cook, or you’re forced to,” Jeff says with a laugh. “You can’t bring a box of cereal for dinner. The guys won’t have it.”
One of Fire Station 80’s favorite recipes is Mercer’s salmon sheet pan dinner, which uses Livia’s Seasoning Salt. The dish reflects Jeff’s path to healthy eating and living.
“We’re allowed to get body scans, which is kind of nice,” he says. “Once every three years, I have a scan. By doing so, they found I had two blocked main arteries, one was in the widow maker. I had a 75% blockage on both of them.
“I had to change my diet and I almost went on an all-plant diet. I quit eating meat and chicken, so I went with fish. I had to come up with creative ideas with the salmon.”
Livia’s Seasoning Salt Adds Taste to Favorite Recipes
To add flavor, Jeff built a smoker and barbecued the fish. He tried Livia’s Seasoning Salt, of which his wife is a fan. After all, she’s a sales representative for the company.
“I fell in love with the stuff,” Jeff added. “It doesn’t taste artificial. You get that artificial kind of taste with some products. It has more of a natural taste to it and it has a lot of flavor. I’ve used it on everything, you name it — French fries, fruit like watermelon. It’s really tasty.”
Cooking Relieves Stress Between Emergency Calls
An apparatus operator, Jeff is with LAFD Fire Station 80, which covers LAX, protecting the aircrafts and their passengers.
“There might be times when we have one call or two calls in a 24-hour period of time,” he says. “We might not get a call in one or two weeks. We’re constantly training to keep up, but that’s department wide. Everybody should be training when you’re not going on calls.”
Jeff has been with the department for 32 years and every day is different.
“All the calls are different in nature,” he explains. “It’s challenging, but I enjoy the camaraderie. That’s the biggest thing for me. It’s the chance to spend time with your family, the way the scheduling goes.
“But it’s tough. Firefighters’ wives have to understand that there may be times when we have to work for a week or two. We can’t just go home. We have to protect the citizens of L.A. That can lead to stress on the spouse’s part or the husband’s part. They have to be independent and sometimes that can be rough.”
Cooking is a way to relieve stress in the fire stations as well. Jeff mixes up his entrees, which range from chicken cordon bleu to homemade shepherd’s pie.
“If the guys are eating the same things, they won’t be happy,” he says with a laugh.
“A couple of times, I was the permanent cook. That’s basically what it sounds like — you’re the cook for that shift. We have three shifts. It’s a big commitment. We rotate cooking after a while, but most firemen are pretty good cooks.”
Jeff is imparting his healthy ways on his station after a health scare.
“You always worry about opening a can of worms when you get those scans,” he says. “It was a lifestyle change for sure. I like eating healthier.”
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Try Jeff Mercer’s Salmon Sheet Pan Dinner!
A/O MERC’S SALMON SHEET PAN DINNER
- Sheet Pan
- 1 lb baby red potatoes
- 2 lb salmon
- 8 oz green beans trimmed
- .5 cup olive oil
- 1/2 lemon thinly sliced
- Livia’s Seasoning Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp Italian parsley chopped, optional
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil sheet pan with 1 teaspoon olive oil or line with parchment paper
- In a large pot of boiling water, boil potatoesuntil parboiled for approximately 12 to 15 minutes; drain well.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss potatoes with 3 tablespoon olive oil and season with Livia’s Seasoning Salt to taste; transfer to one side of prepared sheet pan in a single layer.
- In the same mixing bowl, toss green beans with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with Livia’s Seasoning Salt; transfer to opposite side of sheet pan in a single layer.
- Place salmon down the center of the sheet pan.Brush with two tablespoons of olive oil, season with Livia’s Seasoning Salt and top with lemon slices.
- Place in oven and bake until salmon flakes easily; approximately 16 to 18 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit
- Garnish with chopped Italian parsley, if desired.