Strickland Heart Center Spotlights Gwinnett Firefighters and EMS at Heart Healthy Cook-Off

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Team Top Chef preps ingredients for their dish, salmon steak with peach salsa and springtime quinoa, which went on to win first place in the competition.

Gwinnett Medical Center”s Strickland Heart Center hosted a heart healthy inspired cook-off on Saturday, June 23, at Georgia Gwinnett College. Fired Up for Heart Health, a free event open to the community, featured Gwinnett county firefighters and EMS personnel showing their culinary skills in a heart healthy inspired cooking challenge.

According to a recent study, firefighters have a 300 percent increased risk of developing heart disease as compared to the general population. The event brought about awareness of this statistic and encouraged heart healthy cooking both in the firefighter community as well as the general public.

The cook-off showcased four Gwinnett-based teams, including Team Extreme Southern Heat of Station 15 in Lawrenceville; Team Sizzle of Station 20 in Lawrenceville; Team Top Chef, featuring two Gwinnett Battalion Chiefs, Battalion Chief Billy Clark of the Fire Academy in Dacula and Battalion Chief Russell Knick of Battalion 3, and Team Firejug, a firefighter husband and wife team from Station 26A in Sugar Hill and Station 14C in Buford.

Team Top Chef with their dish, salmon steaks with peach salsa and springtime quinoa, was deemed the winner by the judges” panel. Judges included Manfred Sandler, MD, medical director of cardiology at GMC, Jay Dennard, chief operating officer at GMC-Lawrenceville, and Gwinnett County Fire Chief Bill Myers. Food Network Star and Chef Instructor at the Art Institute of Atlanta, Justin Balmes, served as celebrity guest judge.

“The competition and event on the whole was a great experience,”# said Chief Knick, “And I”ll definitely make this recipe and others from the competition at home, particularly the quinoa – that ingredient was a big hit with the judges.”#

Chief Clark and Chief Knick of Team Top Chef received a set of All-Clad pots and pans, a $100 Whole Foods gift card, and a trophy commemorating their culinary achievement.

“These men and women are Gwinnett”s heroes,”# said Dr. Manfred Sandler. “We find that statistic, “firefighters have a 300 percent increased risk of developing heart disease,” to be unacceptable.# We hope this event brings about awareness regarding how important nutrition is to maintaining a healthy heart and serves as motivation to us all.”#

The recently opened 40,000-square-foot Strickland Heart Center provides the community with access to a comprehensive array of advanced cardiovascular services, including open heart surgery, state-of-the-art operating rooms and cardiac catheterization laboratories. The Strickland Heart Center is also home to some of the region”s top cardiologists and interventionalists.

Gwinnett Medical Center”#
Recognized by HealthGrades”# as America”s 100 Best Hospitals, Gwinnett Medical Center is a not-for-profit healthcare network with acute-care hospitals in Lawrenceville and Duluth.# Offering cardiovascular, orthopedic and neuroscience specialty care as well as a full continuum of wellness services, GMC”s 4,200 associates and 800 affiliated physicians serve more than 400,000 patients annually. To learn more about how GMC is transforming healthcare, visit or follow us at, or