A kitchen match at Fire Catering

Aquinnah couple starts up a family affair in many ways.


Fire Catering is owned by husband and wife Jeffrey and Viktoriya (“Vika”) Duarte. The name of their new business feels apropos, as the spark between them is palpable. They exude youthful energy mixed with well-seasoned patience.

“I spent years experimenting with my chicken wing recipe,” Jeffrey said. “I think it’s better to be really good at a few things than mediocre at a lot of things.”

Jeffrey was born on the Island, and is a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). Vika is a first-generation American, and still has family in Ukraine. (Thankfully, they’re safe while the war there continues.) Originally, Jeffrey was a youth outreach worker, and was contracted to run programs across the country — he got to experience working in nearly all 50 states. One of the programs he ran was Positive Hip Hop, during which he went by the name Chief Swagg.

Aquinnah was Jeffrey’s hometown, even though he inadvertently moved to North Dakota for a time. “I went there to visit a friend, and while I was there, COVID hit. When I checked back home, there weren’t many jobs available. At the same time, I met Vika and fell in love. So I wound up staying for a while,” he said.

Though Jeffrey liked working with youth, he always carried a flame for cooking. “My biological father is an executive chef in a restaurant in Hong Kong,” Jeffrey said. “Growing up, I didn’t really have him in my life much. I felt in my soul that I had a natural knack for cooking, but my interest in it aggravated me, until I got over the mixed feelings I had about my relationship with my dad.”

“Jeffrey has always been such a good cook,” Vika said. “When he was cooking at home, I’d always ask, ‘Why did you put that with that, and how did you know to put those ingredients together?’ He just always seemed to know what to put with what.”

Eventually Jeffrey dove into his natural inclinations for flavors, spices, and combinations, and got to work. He researched and gained experience by working in restaurants. “Some things are taught, some things are natural,” he said.

Jeffrey and Vika are currently residing in Aquinnah, and using the Aquinnah Town Hall commercial kitchen to prepare food. “We’d love to have our own space someday,” Jeffrey said, “but for now, this is great. They’ve been really helpful to us here.”

Though Fire Catering is only about six months old, the work Jeffrey and Vika have put into the business has taken significantly longer. “I had been working on perfecting my rib recipe for years. Each year the tribe has a powwow, and there was only one food option available. There was no barbecue — and I knew people love barbecue,” Jeffrey said. “When we finally moved back here, I felt confident enough to try my barbecue at the powwow.”

Happily, they sold out. “People were talking about it on Facebook and Instagram. Sometimes you lose money the first time out, but we made money. Then we did the Aquinnah Artisan Festival in December. We made wings. I can’t tell you my recipe,” Jeffrey laughed. “It’s a secret, but we sold out again. Now I’m at a point where I think maybe I can do this.”

Vika’s interest in cooking came from her love of food. “I love to eat,” she laughed. “Jeffrey has always been the cook in the house. I’m a good sous-chef. I chop, wash vegetables, plate food, and help Jeffrey with just about anything he needs.”

The day I got together with Vika and Jeffrey, they prepared Chicken Confit. “When people hear the word ‘confit,’ they think it’s a fancy dish, and that it’ll be complicated,” Jeffrey said. “But this recipe is easy and inexpensive to make. All the ingredients I have here cost about $20, and it’ll feed four people.”

The ingredients for Chicken Confit include carrots, onions, garlic, fresh thyme, rosemary, a bay leaf, a decent amount of olive oil, and chicken. Prep time for the dish is about 20 minutes, and depending on the thickness of the chicken used, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to cook.

“This is a slow-cook recipe, which makes the chicken tender,” Jeffrey explained. “The oven should be set at 300 or 325. You can cook it quicker by putting it up to 350, but you’ll have to keep an eye on it so the meat doesn’t dry out.”

“The nice thing about this recipe is that you can throw it in the oven, watch your favorite show with your partner, and next thing you know, you’re taking it out of the oven,” Vika said. “It’s also dairy- and gluten-free.”

Watching them work was watching a longtime couple creating something joyful together. They moved around each other like pros. Vika cut vegetables, while Jeffrey prepared the chicken. “I wash and pat dry the chicken so it doesn’t taste like the package it came in. I also cut the lemons into thin slices,” Jeffrey said over his shoulder. “When they’re thin, they caramelize while cooking.”

Jeffrey is also a big proponent of not wasting food. “You can use the tops of the carrots for seasoning. They have a nice peppery taste. Also, since you’re using a decent amount of olive oil, you can save it after the meal comes out, and use it for something else. It’s delicious poured over mashed potatoes,” he said.

As the meal was cooking, the alluring aroma filled the kitchen. I had the urge to open the oven door so I could get up close and personal. “You don’t want to open the oven while it’s cooking,” Jeffrey said, seemingly reading my mind. “I know it’s tempting for people, but it’s best to leave it alone while it’s cooking.”

When the meal was ready, MV Times freelance photographer Dena Porter, Jeffrey, Vika, and I dove in. You can always tell when people are truly enjoying their meal because they stop talking. It was silent for a good few minutes — the only sounds were forks and knives dancing on the plates, and a bit of slurping. The meal was heavenly. The chicken was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The carrots were sweet and tender, but not mushy. And Jeffrey was right about the lemons — they were caramelized to perfection, and nearly melted in my mouth. The combination of flavors worked beautifully together. Seems Fire Catering is off to a great start.

Jeffrey and Vika have a few goals for the future of Fire Catering. “I’d like to get a takeout window up at the Cliffs,” Jeffrey said. “I’ve always thought about having a food truck too, but legislation around food trucks is tough. Right now we’re focusing on smaller private dinners and parties. The sky’s the limit, but I’d like to keep it at small events for a while.”

“It’s just the two of us,” Vika added. “But we’re open to a lot of options, and we like a challenge.”

“We’re also looking forward to catering this summer, and maybe also doing some meal prep for people. Some people on the Island don’t have a full kitchen,” Jeffrey said. “Not even a stove.”

Jeffrey and Vika focus on cooking the foods they love themselves. “I like Italian food. I think my favorite food is cookout food. I like making ribs, wings, pasta salad, mac and cheese. And I can make a mean steak,” Jeffrey said.

“He really taught me how to eat steak — rare, not medium rare,” Vika added. “Anything Jeffrey cooks, I love. I’m his biggest fan.”

I love a happy ending. We need more of them. So I’m pleased to share that not only are Jeffrey and Vika celebrating their new catering business, but Vika is expecting their first child, due in July. “It’s a boy,” she beamed.

I’m also happy to report that Jeffrey and his father are in a better place — healing, it seems, through their shared love of cooking. “We got to cook together a few times when he came to visit. We had a passing in our family, so it wasn’t the best time, but he stayed for a few extra days to spend time with me,” Jeffrey said. “I was scared to cook for him, but I also learned a lot from him. We made Italian food together.”

To contact Fire Catering, email Jeffrey at jeffd0513@gmail.com, or call 508-939-1370. 

Quick Chicken Confit
For crispier skin, sometimes I broil on high for 3 minutes at the end.

4 chicken thighs
6-7 small carrots, tops on
1 lemon, sliced thin
Half of a small yellow onion
1 fresh bay leaf
half of one sprig fresh rosemary
half-bunch of fresh thyme
6 to 8 cloves of garlic, peeled
good extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 325°. Wash and pat dry the chicken thighs. Salt and pepper both sides.

Wash carrots; trim any stringy bottoms you see. Cut the top off, leaving half an inch of the green leaves on top. (This is aesthetically pleasing, and we eat with our eyes first.) Next, pull some of the carrot top leaves off and roughly chop. We will use this to garnish, almost like parsley, but a little peppery.

Thinly slice the lemon until you have six slices. Remove any seeds from slices. Slice the half-onion with the grain, not too thin.

In the bottom of the baking dish, lay the bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, and onion. Next, lay the chicken, skin-side up, evenly spaced. Tuck garlic cloves in around the chicken, then carrots in between, and on the sides of chicken. Next place 1 lemon slice on top of each thigh, then tuck the remaining lemon slices in between. Be sure to leave some of the chicken skin exposed if you like crispy skin.

Last, pour the good olive oil slowly over all carrots, thighs, garlic, and lemon slices until it reaches halfway up the chicken thighs.

Bake uncovered for 60 minutes, or until internal temperature is 165°.



  1. Congratulations Jeffrey and Vika. I am so proud of you and what you have accomplished. Love you so much. That was the best barbecue I have had and the wings were scrumptious

  2. Congratulations Jeff & Vika! First, on your upcoming parenthood, then on launching “Fire Catering”. Your reputation for preparing great food proceeds you, and everyone looks forward to your success. Congratulations again!

  3. Jeff and Vika ,this is so great to hear! All of it!
    If you have a free moment, stop by the Gallery we’d love to say hi and congratulate you!

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