Monday, April 21, 2014

Lights, Camera, Weber

Last month, I traveled to LA to work on Weber’s latest television commercial, which debuts in select markets in May.  Over the course of my week out west, I was fortunate to work with Marsha Capen, the Managing Editor of Weber’s cookbooks.  Together we spent hours of grilling over three days of filming.  We conquered grocery stores, backyards, and even a church parking lot.  It was intense, it was crazy, and as with most high pressure cooker moments, I loved every minute of it.

Summit Taking a Break

Our mission was simple, make the grilled food look great.  No Hollywood magic.  No post production special effects, just great food grilled on a fleet of Weber grills.  Of course, in order to have great grilled food, we first needed great food.  Marsha and I spent hours in grocery stores in and out of LA looking for the finest ribs, chickens, and steaks we could find. 

Marconda's Prime Beef

By the far, the best spot was Marconda’s.  Located at the Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax, they had the most exquisite selection of meat.

Marconda's

I can still see the four dry aged prime porterhouse steaks, as they were hoisted onto the scale.  Although a band was entertaining nearby in the market, all I heard was a choir of angels.  The meat moved me.

Needless to say, we bought a lot of food.  Almost all of it stuffed into two coffin sized coolers.  As we zipped around in our rental car, all I could hear was Marsha repeating, “I should have rented a bigger SUV!”  As we parked at our hotel, I explained to the valet we needed access to the car, since we needed to add more ice to the coolers.  As we cracked the cooler lid, I’m fairly certain the valet was expecting to see a body.  It was Hollywood after all.  

Hollywood

On our first day of filming, we set up on portable tables in a backyard rented out from the homeowner for filming.  Our cook schedule and times were the metronome of the day.   With several different vignettes set to be filmed, we had to have the right food ready at the right time.  Grilled steaks here, some rotisserie chickens there.  Not only did the talent have call times, so did the ribs.

One thing was obvious as we grilled.  The crew was hungry, and found it quite necessary to walk by our prep tables as the day went on.  Once some strip steaks were grilled and filmed, they were sliced and eaten.  It was a fairly efficient process from cooler to grill to camera to stomach.

Performer hitting the mark

We also assembled the largest banana boat army ever.  

Banana Boat Army

As we prepped the boats, I went through the build process as the camera filmed above.  

Banana Boat Army

As soon as we were done, we grilled them as a special dessert for lunch.  As the afternoon started, there were lots of sticky hands smeared with telltale bits of marshmallow and chocolate.

Action: Flip

While the actors and actresses did their thing, I had one more mission: “grill talent.”  When a close-up was required showing a steak flipped, coals being dumped, or as in the case above, banana boats being built, I was the guy. Yes, you have seen those feminine looking wrists before…and the grill marks.  

Grills in Limbo

The third and final day was the most rewarding.  The closing scene is a party.  The central element is a table full of grilled food.  We had to fill it.  Unfortunately, the fire code forbade any live fire on set, which meant we had to grill in a backup location: a church parking lot.  

Parking Lot Kitchen

Huddled under a temporary tent, guarded by a curiously hungry security guard, and armed with a Weber Q, Genesis, and Spirit, we went about our work.  In three hours we grilled beef tenderloin, sausage stuffed apples, planked pepperdews, pineapple, zucchini, onions, peppers, leeks, asparagus, romaine, corn, planked portabellos, and prosciutto wrapped skewered shrimp.  

Staging

As our deadline approached, we wrapped everything up and transferred it to the set.  With help from our team, we plated the food and set the table.

If we were asked once, we were asked ten times, “Is the food edible?”   Our resounding and constant answer, “Yes!"

We all huddled around the monitor to watch the last shot.  As the director yelled, “Action!" the “partygoers" moved in to fill their plates. It looked amazing.

While it may seem as though the partygoers were “acting,” I’m not really sure they were.  As everything wrapped, and the crew started to strike the set, Marsha and I watched as the actors stayed seated at the party table.  As if the camera was still rolling, they continued to laugh and feast on the food.  

It was that singular moment I will take away.  Weber truly is serious grilling for unserious times.  The actors were enjoying the moment.  It’s what we all do with our Webers.  Whether we are in our own backyards, or in a stranger’s backyard on the set of a commercial.  It’s real, it’s unscripted, and it’s always fun.

With no dishes to clean (thank goodness), Marsha and I left the shoot knowing the only thing well done was our work.  The meat, of course, came out a wonderful medium rare.

It was another awesome experience working with my friends at Weber and Rabble + Rouser.   They are all consummate and dedicated professionals who are determined to bring only the best to your backyard.  I’m proud to have been a part of their latest endeavor.  To tie it all together, here is a short behind the scenes video I put together.  

You can get a lot done with a GoPro strapped to your head.  #GrillOn

Hermosa Beach

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

A very typical view at the grill.  The only difference from night to night is the food on the grate and the camera in hand.

Action Grill Shots

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

What's on the Grill #301: Steak & Cheese

I love steak (obviously).  I also love cheese (perhaps not as obvious), so it’s not a surprise (obviously) that I love steak and cheese.  While I don’t adhere to a purist version (Read: No Cheez Whiz among other things), I mix it up enough to keep it original and satisfying.  It’s a simple grilled meal that is ready in a pinch.

Steak & Cheese

My first deviation is the meat.  Traditional steak and cheese requires a ribeye.  While I love a ribeye, I get more mileage out of a flat iron steak.  With plenty of fat content and more square inch of meat per dollar, a flat iron ensures not only dinner but leftovers the next day.

My next change is the cheese.  There is something I love about fresh mozzarella, which is why I use it instead of the mainstay provolone.  You may call it sacrilege, I call it preference.  Of course, that’s not to say you won’t find me slather on some provolone one night either.  I go in phases...

Whereas, in the past, I have used a cast iron skillet, or an "on the grate" griddle, my plancha for my Weber Grill Center now does the heavy heat work.  Its high sides and vast real estate make for the perfect steak and cheese launchpad.

Let’s get down to it. Slice up some mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.  Drizzle the cooking surface with olive oil, and cook the vegetables (covered with a healthy dose of salt and pepper) until translucent, if not lightly browned. 

Onions & Peppers

Once cooked to your likening, push to one side.  Add the thinly sliced meat to the other side of the cooking surface. Cover with salt and pepper.

Seasoning

Allow the meat to cook a few minutes before moving around.  

Meat

Once the meat is almost all the way brown, mix in with the vegetables.  Cook a few minutes longer and then top with cheese.  Lower the lid to allow the cheese to melt.

Melting Cheese

Scoop off the cheesy meat goodness and serve on toasted rolls, or as I do 90% time, scoop directly onto a plate and eat.

Toasted Bun

For an easy last minute dinner, nothing can really compare.  Grill up some steak and cheese and make it your own.  Perhaps next time I’ll be encouraged to add the Cheez Whiz.

Steak and Cheese

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cedar Planked Salmon

It’s no secret I like to grill with cedar planks, and when it comes to salmon, a cedar plank is by far my preferred method.  It never fails.  The results are always moist, tasty, and full of the wonderful aromatic cedar the plank provides.

Cedar Plank Salmon with Honey Lime Dressing

This week I put together a video on cedar planking for the Weber blog.  It’s a great reminder of how good, and better yet, dead simple, grilling on a cedar plank can be.