Winner of Queens Round of the Daily News 5 Alarm Cookoff Serves a Good Cause

By Frank Green New York Daily News

The new king of Queens can not only cook — he’s generous with his winnings, too.

Jing Kong beat the field of firefighters and paramedics at the borough’s round of the Daily News 5 Alarm Cookoff, held Saturday in Long Island City.

Kong competed as a lieutenant in the FDNY’s Ceremonial Unit in Bayside — a squad that handles everything from bugling to serving as pallbearers at department members’ funerals. He’s donating his winnings — a trip for four to Florida and gift cards from P.C. Richard & Son and Key Food — to the John G. Chipura Foundation, which has raised money to help firefighters dealing with illnesses stemming from the 9/11 attacks.

The Staten Island-based charity owes the gifts to Kong’s plate of braised pork belly and unagi donburi (Japanese for eel bowl.)

“Mind-blowing,” said Efren Reyes, a chef/consultant who used to cook at the Flatiron restaurant Eleven Madison Park, of Kong’s egg, bacon and eel dish. “He should be a chef.”

Also judging were culinary arts teacher Alexis Raccasi and P.C. Richard & Son rep Joseph Morrone.

Lien Ly, Kong’s wife, admits he does most — and the best — of the cooking in their house, never failing to “jazz up” their daily meals.

“Even a regular packet of ramen can’t be a regular packet of ramen,” Ly says. “He’ll put it in the oven, or add pickled vegetables — stuff like that.”

Considering Kong won the entire 5 Alarm Cookoff back in 2011, the 10-year FDNY vet said it only seemed reasonable to give away his winnings from the Queens round this time. “From now on, everything’s house money,” says Kong, who will face off against winners from the other boroughs in the final round of the cookoff, airing on the “Rachael Ray” show on Nov. 5.

“It’s nice that I can donate something to charity and help out,” Kong added.

His competitors were not happy when they realized they were up against a former citywide Cookoff champ. “A ringer!” groaned Paul Fazio of Ladder 127 in Jamaica, who served up a pork loin sauerbraten with cabbage and potatoes.

“I cooked a firehouse dish,” said the 16-year veteran, dismissing the “fancy” food of his rivals, meals he said would never be served at his station. “You try to keep it around 6 to 8 bucks a guy.”

But ambition mostly trumped economy in the Long Island City High School kitchen. And while Fazio dissed Kevin Kelleher’s pan-seared duck with citrus sauce and wild rice, there’s a troop of paramedics at Elmhurst’s Station 46 who love their EMS teacher’s cooking.

“That’s the first question they ask when they come in — ‘What’re you making?’ ” Kelleher says.

The Floral Park resident takes the food part of his job nearly as seriously as any other, carrying a toolbox packed with kitchen utensils — everything from a lemon reamer to a grater — everywhere he goes. His dedication continues at home.

“My son, when Mom cooks he’s not happy. When Dad cooks, he’s happy,” Kelleher beams. “She makes good pasta,” he quickly adds.

Kong’s runner-up, Pete Lazarcheck of Ladder 140 in Ridgewood, melded the hearty with the fancy with his stuffed pork roll-ups with a Madeira cream sauce. The 19-year vet has just a few months to go before retirement, and jokes that his colleagues might be happy to see him go.

“They’ll lose weight,” laughs Lazarcheck.

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