Welcome to the first new segment for 2015: Chew the Fat. This regular series will feature interviews with a range of folk involved in the BBQ scene as well as anything to do with my other loves: bacon, dude-food and beer. Each segment will also feature a favourite recipe for you to try at home.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce the first cab off the rank as Chris Girvan-Brown, guru of all things BBQ and the man behind Urban Griller. Chris has also provided a killer recipe for smoke poached kangaroo which you can find here.
I first met Chris five years ago when I attended his BBQ school which was a huge influence in forming my eventual obsession with the craft.
Since then he has continued to expand his operations, frequently having to relocate the school to larger premises like some sort of hermit crab with a BBQ addiction.
How did Urban Griller come about?
Way back at the dawn of time, I was General Manager of a local Arts organisation; one summer we had a chef run a Gourmet BBQ class on a weeknight for 6 weeks. I sat in on the first class and it was a lot of pretty things on sticks and colourful sauces, more of a recipe “How To”, so after some negotiation I brought a couple of my BBQs to the second class and did things like Bread and Pizza while the chef did her thing.
It worked well and a few months later TAFE asked me to run a class for them. I did that a few times, but TAFE and I could not see eye to eye, so I stopped, after that people just kept contacting me asking when the next class was, so I started doing classes under the Urban Griller banner.
What does a day at BBQ school entail?
What a question!…for me; 4am start, two Panadol, three beers and into bed by 8 that night. It’s a crazy day, a stupid amount of food, I think we do 26 separate dishes, but I’m trying to tell a story, to shake up people’s ideas of what BBQ is and give them an insight into the techniques and ideas that will improve their BBQ, a little science, a little alchemy, but above all I want them to go away enthused, fired up if you like. At the least I want them to take the stupid flat plate out of their BBQ.
And before Urban Griller what kick started your passion for BBQ?
I’ve always been the kind of guy who is happy with a little fire and some tucker to cook. As a young adult I’d ride my motorbike out to the forest at Whroo (it’s in Victoria, look it up on google maps), I’d buy a frozen fish fillet, some lamb chops and some stinking old liver from the butcher on the way.
I’d park myself on the side of a tailings dam in the forest beside one of the old Gold mining Cyanide vats, tie bits of nasty liver to string and throw it in the dam. Then light a small fire and boil the fish in some water, in between pulling in my strings and scooping fat yabbies up onto the bank. The Yabbies would go in the pot, the chops were cooked on rocks at the side of the fire, that’s just heaven for me, quiet, peaceful, smokey heaven!
American style BBQ is all the rage in Australia at the moment – what are your thoughts on this trend? Is it a fad or here to stay?
I think it is a trend as you say, but so was Chinese food and Mexican, now we think nothing of cooking it at home. It will be the same with US style BBQ, once people understand the process; it will just be something they do with their BBQs. The good thing is to understand US BBQ, you need to understand temperature and that has implications for everything else you cook.
What’s the craziest dish you’ve ever cooked on a BBQ?
There is no Crazy cooking on a BBQ, it’s all good! I’ve done some stuff that seemed pretty wild at the time, but now is no big deal really. There are some things I wouldn’t do again. I like a challenge, so I’m always looking for that thing a little left of centre or maybe even a bit left of that. Maybe whole shark on a spit, I’ve done a small one, but a big one would be fun!
What are your top 3 BBQ Tips for the Backyard BBQer?
Slow down, Plan but don’t overthink it and show No Fear!
Favourite BBQ Food?
I don’t really have a favourite, I like a good steak and a good lamb chop but that’s just my upbringing, I like anything cooked on fire, except Pumpkin, that’s just a noxious weed!
Lastly, what can we expect from Urban Griller in 2015?
Now that I have a bit of space to play with and BBQ School is setup permanently, I’m thinking new classes for sure! But the space also gives me the ability to play with some ideas that till now have only been sketches.
I’ve got my regular column to do for Storyque each month but I also have a number of other writing commitments and then there is the stuff that I want to do! It’s going to be a busy year on the keyboard.