Chef Stephen Coe serves tacos from the S.W.A.T. truck.

by Adam Centamore.

When it comes to food, Chef Stephen Coe only knows how to give it everything he has. From winning the American Culinary Foundation’s “Boston Junior Chef of the Year” to defeating celebrity chef Bobby Flay on the Food Network show Chopped: Beat Bobby Flay. Coe has built an incredible résumé.

A graduate of the prestigious Johnson & Wales culinary program, he’s a multiple-time Food Network winner including Chopped: Ultimate Redemption, Tyler Florence Recipe Contest, and Chopped: Grill Masters. He’s developing his own show, Dangerous Eats, that takes him around the world sourcing and preparing unique and amazing dishes. He owns food trucks as well as the Early Bird Café in Kingston. The man is unstoppable.

With such an impressive array of achievements, it might be surprising to hear Coe is just as generous with his time when it comes to giving back to those in need. He volunteers at the Matt Light Foundation, the Boston and Rhode Island Food Banks, the Boston Rescue Mission, Share our Strength, and Meals on Wheels. He’s the chef of the Hannon Foundation. Again, unstoppable.

Donating his time and talents to these organizations is Coe’s way of directly contributing to the welfare of those in need and reflects his strong belief in supporting the community. In addition to all those organizations, Coe is also leading an effort to take care of a group that people don’t readily think of as needing support—first responders.

Along with other founding board members Brad Simmons, Katie Greene, and Adam St. Ours, Coe created the Feed the First Responders initiative, a community service project focused on supporting frontline first responders and military personnel. The program started during COVID and is stronger than ever today. This year marks their 5th anniversary. In 2023, Feed the First Responders provided 2,000+ meals to those on the frontline.

The focus on first responders is intentional. “Feeding first responders is a tangible expression of gratitude, recognizing their unwavering commitment to public safety and well-being,” Coe shares, viewing the program as an important way to raise morale and show first responders how much they are valued. “It lets our first responders know their communities appreciate them,” he adds. That connection to the community is critical. “Communities thrive when individuals selflessly provide nourishment to those on the front lines, supporting first responders in their critical roles.”

Coe acknowledges the gravity of caring for so many people, knowing it takes the effort and commitment of many to get the job done. “The dedication of my team exemplifies the power of grassroots initiatives in fostering resilience and unity.”

Often working out of his bright-red “Lobsta Love” food truck, Coe and his team bring their culinary talents to events across the South Shore. One day they’re cooking up pork belly tacos with ancho chili-roasted pineapple for the Fairhaven Firefighters Association. The next day it’s Portuguese lobster chowder for the Mattapoisett Police Department (recipes to follow). The menu is as varied as it is delicious, taking advantage of the chef’s talents for creating award-winning food in just about any environment.

While providing nourishment for people who spend their careers on the front line helping others is at the core of their mission, it’s not just about the food. As Coe points out, “Our contributions extend beyond meals. We offer a comforting reminder that the community stands together, grateful for the sacrifices of first responders.”

The communities served by the initiative are appreciative. The team’s Facebook page shows the love felt for the program. “Proud to be able to help this cause,” one entry reads, “I’ve met a lot of people in my lifetime. There are only a small handful that give back to the community like Chef Stephen Coe does.” Even Plympton’s Chief of Police has commented, “As a Chief of police, as well as a control Chief on the Southeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council… It is great to know that we have the support of your business. Moreover, it’s impressive to see in person how much you truly care about all of our first responders.”

Coe hopes others will follow suit in whatever way they can. He states, “Our compassion and dedication set an inspiring example for others, encouraging a culture of support and appreciation for those who serve on the front lines.” There’s no expectation that others will go to the same lengths as he has. “The act of providing sustenance to first responders reflects the belief that small gestures can have a profound impact on the overall resilience of a community.”

Preparing for their fifth season, the Initiative is established and thriving. As for the year ahead, everyone is looking toward expansion to help even more first responders in more places. Coe and the team plan to visit at least eight other communities throughout southeastern Massachusetts, including Seekonk, Plymouth, and Kingston. “We’re always on the hunt for new towns to style out.”