Chef Rob Scambia

It was in 2001 that Robert Scambia’s life started down a path he never imagined.  One of his good friends, a New York City firefighter, said something prophetic, “If something bad happens, cook for fire departments and write a cookbook.” Well, something bad did happen, Robert lost his good friend in the Twin Towers attack on 9/11.  He never forgot what had been said but didn’t know how he could exactly do what his friend asked.

Cooking was the easy part.  Robert is a trained chef and a very good one—he studied in Italy for 9 years.  Cooking for firefighters turned out to be easy also.  He has cooked for departments in Boca Raton, Clermont, Minneola, Leesburg, other Lake County departments as well as departments in Orange, Osceola & Seminole Counties and more.  He even had his recipes organized into a cookbook he titled, A Hero’s Cookbook.  The problem, how to get it published?

This is where his friends in Orange County stepped in and got financial backing from Kleenex to publish the book.  They even surprised him with a taping of the presentation, viewed more than 6 million times now, of several cases of his beautiful book ready for sale.  All the money from his profits goes directly back to that department’s benevolent fund.  Robert hopes to be able to publish additional editions of the book.  They will contain the same recipes but will feature different fire departments. He even would like to do one featuring Clermont’s fire and police departments.

The book has brought Robert some fame.  He has been interviewed by ABC’s David Muir, someone who Robert describes in glowing terms, and is scheduled to go to California for a taping of the Ellen Show.  It just goes to prove that his statement, “If you don’t give respect, you will never get it” has proven to be true for him.

Robert was a guest speaker at the South Lake County Historical Society. History is a collection of the stories of people’s lives,  just like Robert.

If you are interested in history in general or the history of Lake County in particular, contact the South Lake County Historical Society by going to our website,; by calling Roxanne Brown, Village Manager, at 352-593-8496; by touring the Historic Village any Friday from 1 pm to 3 pm or any Saturday or Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm; or by attending our membership meetings which are held on the second Monday of the month at 7 pm in the Train Depot in the Historic Village, 490 West Ave., not far from Clermont’s historic downtown shopping district.  The next meeting is on April 9th.

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