Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Gwinnett County fire fighters from station 20B, Brian Gueth, Brian Headspeth, center, and Brian Keyeck, right, from Team FD-2 dish up their tilapia filet meal during the Fired Up for Heart Health cooking competition at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth Saturday. Team FD-2 placed second among the seven teams consisting of local fire fighters and GMC associates who prepared health meals in the cook off. Studies show that fire fighters are 300 percent more likely have cardiac issues versus the general population.
DULUTH -- Chef Michael Ganley never thought a heart-healthy egg substitute could make great crepes, but the "Ripe Peaches" proved him wrong Saturday.
The team -- a trio of intensive care unit nurses -- won this weekend's Fired Up for Health cookoff at Gwinnett Medical Center's Get Heart Smart Expo with fajita crepes and a sweet potato chile lime soup.
The ladies created the recipes beginning with some heart-healthy ingredients, like garlic, sweet potatoes, red bell pepper and tomatoes.
"We deal with a lot of cardiac patients," said Suzanne Greer, a team member along with Rita LaCavera and Diana Armstrong.
Celebrating the second year of an open-heart program at the hospital, the expo gave patients a chance to check their cholesterol and lipids, while trying out exercise classes like yoga and Zumba. But the highlight was the cookoff, which pitted hospital employees against firefighters.
Not only did the food have to be good, but the recipes had to meet stringent dietary requirements.
"We are really providing people a roadmap for heart health," hospital spokeswoman Beth Okun said.
Donnie Stone had a heart attack more than a decade ago, but it was a bag of groceries that got him to the cookoff.
For years after his health scare, Stone continued to live an unhealthy lifestyle. But meeting his new wife and enjoying the grandkids gave him the kick to lose 80 pounds in the past year.
Now, the trainer in the hospital's patient services department goes to exercise classes three times a week, and he has experimented with recipes, after finding some cabbage in a grocery sack from the hospital's "Eat Right Atlanta" program.
Along with his Sand Mountain Fiesta Farmers Market Salad, he and partner Rony Salguero served up a Razzle Dazzle Cheesecake Parfait.
"You can't do this without making it applicable to your life," Stone said of creating the recipes. "We love dessert."
Ganley, the owner of Duluth's Park Cafe and Payne-Corley House, said he was glad that contestants focused on fresh veggies and didn't forget the spices, since a lot of people think heart healthy means no salt. He praised one team's quinoa creation and said they all remembered the most important thing.
"Food's got to taste good. That's the challenge that everyone has," Ganely said. "It's not just food for sustenance but food for experience."