Food by Fire with Steven Raichlen

Playing in the flames with grilling’s guru and the folks from Kalamazoo Grills

To be a food writer is a blessed thing. There is never an off day, as delicious things surround you. Many times, though, the effort to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s new and happening in the industry can be overwhelming, which is why when you receive an e-mail inviting you to learn about something new, you immediately and emphatically RSVP. This was the case when Kalamazoo Grills invited Sauté to attend an afternoon at the Fairmont in Santa Monica with acclaimed grill master Steven Raichlen. There was no doubt the event would be a literal master class in technique and flavor, but what I didn’t expect to learn that day was the level of quality Kalamazoo would bring to the table.

Steven Raichlen

It is safe to assume someone as accomplished as Raichlen, a notable cookbook author and television personality, would bring a wealth of knowledge and flavors to any dish he touches. Cooking alongside him and having him guide, teach and demonstrate every process of the day’s vast menu was the stuff foodie dreams are made of. He is a stalwart of the fire and flame — a dedicated craftsman who has studied all over the world. From spatchcocking chickens to blistering tomatoes to seasoning brisket with a gochujang rub, Raichlen shared his greatest hits of outdoor grilling.

His wealth of knowledge was daunting at first. It felt like I was entering a doctorate program squeezed into a six-hour day. I found myself in a constant loop of furiously washing raw proteins from my hands so I could continue taking notes and snapping photos before jumping back into food prepping and cooking. Flames licked the cool air, and the scent of wood seasoned each breath as guests took their turns cooking.

Kalamazoo had several employees on hand to help educate us about the products. However, we weren’t walking the floor of some showroom. We were cooking on them, rotating the intricate wheel on the on the gaucho grill and adjusting the placement of the salmon in the pizza oven. Frankly, my car has less impressive technology than the smoker.

It should be noted for transparency that I was invited by Kalamazoo, but not all events garner write-ups like this. The reason the figurative pen is being put to paper is because Kalamazoo Grills are some of the best products I have ever used.

The bespoke options, artisanship and range of products are all world-class, but it is the way they feel when you touch them that moves you. I have never used a gaucho grill. That morning, however, while keeping my barbecue sauce on the side burner in my peripheral, it felt like an old friend. The heat brought my face to a glow, which I welcomed to hide my embarrassment after saying “yes, Chef” to Raichlen in some imaginary line cook sort of reflex. But I could effortlessly control the heat, shifting embers at will. It was a simpatico relationship from first touch.

The personal touches that Kalamazoo gives to each product is also worth noting. While chickens still roasted on a massive grill, a small door opened. Inside were a myriad of required forms, and then there were a series of signatures. These were the names of every person who built that grill, immortalized in its interior. Celebrating culinary craftsmanship is ultimately what being a food writer is about. The food at this event was sublime, the chefs superb and the setting elegant. And once the recipe notes were filed away, the smoke dissipated and fires extinguished, I found myself wanting to cook on those grills again as soon as I could.

For more information about culinary events hosted by Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, visit

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