Firefighter gourmet: Just Add Tomatoes
Serving their community is standard operating procedure for Matt Tidrow and Andrew Moran, two dedicated Shelby Township firefighters. Tidrow has been recognized with a National Firefighter of the Year Award and Moran is a veteran who served in the Iraq War. Together, the two have unexpectedly found themselves teaming up on a different kind of mission, called Just Add Tomatoes.
“Contrary to popular belief, not all firefighters know how to cook,” says Tidrow. “But Andrew and I do a lot of cooking.” It wasn’t their culinary skills that propelled them into this project, but simply a quick solution Tidrow came up with one night while making pizza with his children. “I usually make my own dough and sauce from scratch, but that night I was out of sauce and didn’t have time to make a fresh batch,” he says. He grabbed a jar of crushed tomatoes, threw in a bunch of herbs and spices, stirred it, tasted it, and he was surprised at how good it was.
“I grabbed a pen and started writing down what I’d put in there, guessing the quantities. Thankfully, it tasted as good as the first batch, so that’s what I used for my sauce that night, and my kids thought it was the best-tasting pizza I ever made.”
Knowing they’d want it again, Tidrow started premeasuring the ingredients into packets, so he’d be ready for the next time. Word quickly spread around the fire station about the tasty pizza sauce. Moran, who has a background in retail, especially liked it. “That’s when the gears started turning,” says Tidrow. “We decided to partner together and create a business.”
They started attending farmers’ markets and left samples with a manager at a local Kroger store, which eventually led to the product being offered at 80 of their stores.
“I know how to put out a fire and save a life, but retail was something new to me. To get into a big retailer like that, we were very lucky,” he says. Tidrow explains that you simply add the spice packet to 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes to make pizza sauce for four large pizzas or to make a marinara for other recipes. “And because it’s not heattreated like jarred sauce,” he says, “you get better flavor.”
“It gives you consistency every time. You don’t waste time and you don’t overdo the herbs and spices. It’s already done for you,” he says. “At the fire station, we need to get out and get going, so we often grill some chicken, add some sauce, a little provolone and you’re good to go.”
“One customer told me that it’s made it easier for her at mealtime, because it gives her more quality time with her family. That meant a lot to us. We all need more time. Every day there’s another stoplight put up or something else put on our shoulders. If this product can give people a little more of that time back, well, that’s what keeps us going.”
Find out more at JustAddTomatoesPizzaSauce.