Reinventing the Thrill of the Grill -July 2017

by: Amanda C. Lydon

photography by: Janie Dretler

I have a moderate to severe fear of grilling, or at the very least a post-traumatic wariness. At my first cooking job after college, I began as most young cooks do, on the hot and cold appetizer station. The restaurant was a French bistro with Latin influences, so the station’s stresses were limited to shucking enough oysters, or heating and arranging pre-made duck tamales over a warm spinach and bacon salad.

The hardest part was mastering the squeeze bottle to make the perfect squiggles of chipotle vinaigrette on the steaming tamale (it was the 1990s). After a few months, our pretty, petite chef might have thought she was doing me a favor by “promoting” me to cover the grill station on the regular cook’s night off.

COFFEE-SCENTED JERK CHICKEN

Jim, who normally worked the grill, was a mostly silent, methodical cook. He was an aspiring drummer, lank-haired and thin. All of the best-selling dishes came off the gas-fired grill: a half chicken smeared with tangy achiote paste, cilantro and lime; a brined double-thick pork chop with mango salsa; a hanger steak with watercress, guava barbecue sauce and a pile of spicy potato frites.


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