THE DART: Natchez fireman finds fun in cooking for shift

Published 12:10 am Monday, January 4, 2016

NATCHEZ — Homey smells waft through the kitchen as Lt. Guy Tuccio finishes chopping celery for his gumbo.

He’s making a large batch of it since Tuccio has to make enough for the other firemen on his shift.

When The Dart landed on Natchez Fire Department’s Station No. 1 on Main Street, Tuccio was getting ready to prepare dinner. Tuccio said he learned how to cook from his mother, Diane Tuccio, who owned Diane’s Kitchen.

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Now, he runs his own kitchen in the fire department.

“It just came along over the years,” Tuccio said.

Tuccio’s shift lasts 24 hours, which means waiting until the shift is over to eat isn’t an option. He’s the acknowledged chef for his shift’s members, and for anyone else who comes along.

“There’s usually plenty of people willing to eat,” Tuccio said.

The men on Tuccio’s shift all chip in $5, which he uses to buy supplies.

“Sometimes it (the bill) runs over, but sometimes that decides what we’re going to eat,” Tuccio said.

If there’s a sale on food, such as steaks, then steaks will end up being a part of dinner, Tuccio said.

But, rather than steaks, Tuccio is known for dishes including gumbo and crawfish étouffée with rice and fried catfish. He doesn’t make simple dishes.

“If he did, it would probably be the best peanut butter and jelly you ever tasted,” Lt. Chris Dunaway said.

Tuccio tries to have the meal ready by 6 p.m. each night, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

“You either get a call or somebody comes by to visit us,” Tuccio said.

If a call does come in while Tuccio’s cooking, it’s not a problem. He purposely cooks meals where he can use automatic timers or move the food off the heat.

“Once I get it going, if we get a call, then I can cut it off,” Tuccio said.

But, if things go according to plan, then dinner is on the table at 6 p.m.. For times when Tuccio isn’t on shift, Firefighter Lane Whitehead knows exactly what they’ll do.

“Starve,” he said, joking.

In all reality, other members on shift can and have cooked. But the shift seems happy to let Tuccio continue to do most of the cooking

“It’s just kind of a way to share something I have a talent (for) with some of the other guys,” Tuccio said.

Everyone on shift has a way to contribute, Tuccio said, such as fixing electrical appliances when they break. For him, it’s making sure no firefighter goes hungry.