FELLSMERE – A mechanical malfunction in the Old Fellsmere School forced the kitchen to close for 80 minutes Saturday around 1 p.m., kitchen volunteers said.
Initial reports said the kitchen would be down for three hours, according to an event announcer. But quick work on the part of the kitchen volunteers and a little bit of luck had frog legs and gator tail being dished up in relatively no time flat.
Volunteer Ali Martin said they lost between 300 and 400 pounds of food when the fire suppression system malfunctioned, spraying a powder all over the place – into the seven full fryers, into the batter containers, over the work stations, and on top of the dinners sitting in wait for pickup.
“We didn’t want to take any chances,” Martin said of tossing the packaged dinners, noting some of the powder could have slipped inside the Styrofoam packaging.
She said they were in luck, though, when the malfunction happened because three of the workers who installed the system were waiting in line for frog legs and gator tail when it happened.
The guys worked quickly to reset the system as the kitchen crew emptied the fryers, cleaned them out and brought a fresh batch of oil back up to temp for more food. They also tossed the batter and scrubbed down the workstations to get rid of the fire suppression powder.
In a little more than an hour, volunteers were running throughout the festival announcing the kitchen would reopen in 15 minutes.
When the kitchen did reopen, a long line formed of hungry patrons waiting for their fried frog legs and gator tail.