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Redefining fast food

By Staff | Nov 29, 2012

FIRE AND SAFETY team members at the Iowa Speedway said they love the home-cooked meals provided by Jean Garrett, left, and Mary Frances Wright, especially since first responders who work at the track can enjoy three square meals a day for only $10.





NEWTON – While there’s no such thing as a free lunch, the Iowa Speedway’s fire and safety crews know they can’t get a better deal than three home-cooked meals for $10 a day, thanks to the Garrett family.

LEE GARRET, of Marshalltown, is the grill master on the cooking crew. He prepares everything from pork to turkey tenders.

“Homemade has always been our style,” said Jean Garrett, 72, of Marshalltown, who works with her husband, Lee Garrett, and daughter, Linda Kuhl, to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for the firefighters, paramedics, medical staff and others who are part of the Fire and Safety Team at the Iowa Speedway.

The Garrett family has been cooking at the racetrack and feeding the safety crews since the speedway opened in 2006.

They landed the gig through their daughter Denise, who is a paramedic. “We’re big race fans, so it’s a good fit,” said Lee Garrett, 72, a retired pork producer, whose family used to run Pork and More restaurant and catering in Albion.

From their makeshift kitchen located near the track’s medical building, the Garrett family and their crew feed up to 200 people per meal.

“This is a non-stop job, but it’s fun,” said Mary Frances Wright from Cedar Falls, who has cooked with the Garretts at the Iowa Speedway for three years.

The crew starts serving breakfast around 6 a.m. and dishes up eggs, sausage, pancakes, and biscuits and gravy. Lunch and dinner menus range from pork burgers, cheesy hash browns and broccoli salad to turkey tenders, twice-baked potatoes and cherry cobbler.

If the firefighters and safety personnel are too busy to stop by the food tent to eat, the crew will deliver meals right to their fire trucks.

“There’s no such thing as going hungry here,” said Mark Grages, who has served on the fire and rescue department in East Troy, Wis., for 22 years. “I joke that the only reason I keep coming back to the Iowa Speedway is because the food is so good.”

Jean Garrett, who credits her Aunt Ruth with teaching her the fine points of cooking, enjoys the opportunity to serve a wide range of people, including Hollywood actor Dennis Quaid, who filmed a movie at the Iowa Speedway in 2011.

While it can be tricky at times to determine exactly how much food to prepare, the crew has never run out, said Garrett, who often works until 10 p.m. or later on race weekends.

“I eat better here than I do at home,” said Jack Blom, a full-time firefighter from Des Moines. “Nobody out here works harder than the Garretts and their crew, and they do an excellent job.”

Don’t expect to lose weight with these home-cooked entrees, added Craig Little, the assistant fire chief of the Yale Fire Department, who appreciates the convenience, quality and exceptional flavor of the meals.

“Whatever the Garretts cook is my favorite food.”

Wild rice salad

2 cups wild rice

2 teaspoons salt

8 cups water

Wash wild rice well, and drain. Put wild rice in Dutch oven with salt. Bring to boil.

Simmer until kernels are open and tender, about 45 to 55 minutes. Drain well and rinse under cold, running water. Drain well.


3/4 cup Italian dressing

3 6-ounce artichoke hearts, drained

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 cup chopped green pepper

1 cup chopped green onions (including tops)

Combine Italian dressing and rice in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Refrigerate overnight.

Broccoli salad

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 large bunch broccoli (cut up)

1 medium red onion

1/2 cup raisins

6 to 9 slices of bacon (cooked and cut up)

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Mix mayonnaise, sugar and cider vinegar to make a dressing. Add remaining ingredients and combine with the dressing. Refrigerate.

Potato salad dressing

(This recipe is great for potato salad, but can also be used for ham salad and other salads.)

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

2 whole eggs

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup water



Combine sugar and flour, and put in double boiler. Add eggs, sugar, cider vinegar and water in the double boiler. Cook until thick.

(This can take quite awhile.) When cool, mix with equal parts of mayonnaise.

Add mustard to taste.

Hamburger balls

1 pound hamburger

4 slices of bread

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup diced onion

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 can cream of mushroom

1 can cream of chicken

1 cup milk

Tear bread into chunks and soak in milk.

Add eggs and the rest of ingredients. Shape into balls.

Brown balls in skillet. In a bowl, combine cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup and milk.

Pour over meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Cucumber salad

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons vinegar

4 cucumbers

1 onion

Salt and pepper

Mix mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar. Set aside.

Slice cucumbers and onion. Pour dressing mixture over cucumbers and onion.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

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