Grilling means good times, good friends, and hopefully, great food. -Bobby Flay
Several drafts into this post something occurred to me in a meditation: This post needed a hook, in the form of a quote. Later I laughed because it’s a “meat hook”.
Many of you know that I’m no stranger to grilling and smoking. When I met my man he had been a pitmaster for several years, competing in official, sanctioned barbecue contests across the U.S. He’s a member of the Kansas City Barbecue Society and is certified to judge their contests. He’s cooked at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest with a champion. He’s taught BBQ classes. We’ve been catering Southern-style barbecue for a few years and we recently took over part ownership of a BBQ restaurant. Perhaps this is how I got on Weber’s radar.
The Weber Grill Academy is Canada’s first Grill Academy, a custom-designed learning facility dedicated to the art and skill of grilling and offering regularly scheduled public grilling and barbecue classes, as well as private parties and corporate events.
After I received my invitation to the #WeberFun party for bloggers at the Weber Grill Academy Jason’s response was, “I can teach you all you need to know.” But it wasn’t about that, it was about getting together with other bloggers – not pitmasters – to play at the Weber Grill Academy in Vaughan.
And play we did.
We were well taken care of far ahead of our arrival, being asked for our favourite colour from a list and for our summer music choices for secret reason. We had rides arranged for us. I’d guessed that multiple people would be riding in one vehicle. Instead, Weber Grill Academy sent sedans from Rosedale Livery. I had a headache when I arrived home from work and so I snoozed in the car during the one hour (rush hour) commute.
I arrived into a big room with cooking stations and a number of gas grills, kettles and Weber Smokey Mountains ready for cooking. Another room had snacks for us, including pizzas with arugula that were reminiscent of the persimmon pizza I’d recently made, boards of brie with jam, a fruit platter. A room off the side of that was a wonderland of product. Shiny Weber things. I like shiny things. In the main room I marvelled at how CLEAN their Qs were. Our have a nice patina on them. Ours also live outside, while the Weber Grill Academy uses their grills and barbecues indoors.
I didn’t take a photo of the showroom (hindsight) but Charlene of Chew Street did:
— Charlene (@1ChewStreet) February 12, 2015
Each of us was given a black apron with our names embroidered into it in our favourite colour. Mine was purple. The next day I tweeted the following:
— Andrea Toole (@CdnFoodieGirl) February 12, 2015
I love that apron.
After some snacks we were assigned to teams and taken to the cooking room where the mise en place was already laid out for us at food prep stations. I was relieved that my embarrassing lack of knife skills would not be on display.
— Andrea Toole (@CdnFoodieGirl) February 11, 2015
…Someone who works for the Weber Grill Academy did that for all five dishes we were making, multiplied by the number of food prep stations.
On the menu:
- Cedar-Planked Salon with Honey-Lime Dressing
- Smoked Chicken Drumettes with Orange-Honey Glaze
- Asparagus and Potato Napoleons
- Beef Satay with Peanut Sauce
- Grilled Pineapple Upside Down Cake
The recipes were on iPads. As teams we divided up the work, with guidance from check Michael P. Clive. Gas grills were used for most of the proteins and sauces. The salmon was cooked on Weber Kettles, the chicken on Weber Smokey Mountain cookers. I’m quite familiar with the kettles and SMs. A family of WSMs lives on my patio with only the 14 inch version missing.
I nearly forgot about the chicken that we’d seasoned at the beginning of the session and was reminded more than halfway into the cooking when I asked Chef Michael what we were using the “WSMs” for. He looked at me strangely and queried, “The what?” “The Smokey Mountains”, I replied. I had been trying to say little, as this was their show. I wasn’t there to show off my knowledge, I was there to experience the Weber Grill Academy. But yeah, I know what a Weber Smokey Mountain is.
— Weber Grills Canada (@webergrillsca) February 12, 2015
It amused me that Grilled Pineapple Upside Down Cake was one of the items we were making. The Pork Ninjas (our BBQ team) entered one of those in a BBQ contest a few years ago.
— Weber Grills Canada (@webergrillsca) February 12, 2015
I also got a kick out of their tweets, and Emma’s small cooking faux-pas in which one ingredient was substituted for another.
At the end of the night we were all shown Surprise #2: We all walked away with a Weber Q 1200 portable gas grill. It was shocking and amazing. It was like that moment on Oprah or Ellen when everyone in the studio audience learns that they have received a prize. I was given purple because I chose it from the list of colours, the list that got me my name embroidered in purple on the apron.
We were also given a bag that contained a hooded sweatshirt. No lie, I’ve been needing a sweatshirt – mine all fell apart – and been looking for one. Since receiving it I’ve worn my Weber Grill Academy hoodie at least twice a week.
Your Weber Grill Academy Experience
Weber Grill Academy classes are held year-round, are open to the public, and are always hands-on. In each class, there are three hours of instruction, after which participants eat what they made and take home leftovers (if any).
This was a blogger party, so obviously my experience was different than what yours would be. I asked the Public Relations Director of Weber-Stephen Canada how your experience would differ from mine, informing her that in my blog posts I like to answer “What’s in it for me?” (“me” being the reader) and “Why would my readers care?”. This blog post could too easily be a narcissist “Look at me! Look at what I got to do!” post, which is the side of blogging I don’t like. (I prefer to provide value in a blog and use social media for sharing cool life events.)
I was surprised to learn that the experience isn’t that different. Here’s what she told me:
The visit is very much like you experienced, but without the alcohol and gifts. Typically, visitors are greeted at the door by myself and someone else. We welcome them, hang their coats up and take them to the social area where they are provided with an apron and offered a soft drink and some sort of an appetizer while waiting for all guests to arrive. When everyone arrives, Weber Grill Specialist and Chef Michael P. Clive welcomes them to the Grill Academy and lets them know what to expect for that evening. Guests are designated to their assigned tables and the fun starts. Everything is set out for them and all recipes are on the iPads. Chef walks them through each recipe and guests go back and forth to their designated grills preparing each course (appetizer, mains, a side and dessert).
Throughout the evening, guests are informed about different types of grills and techniques depending on what they are cooking (direct vs indirect; charcoal vs. gas; important tools to use for success such as a timer, thermometer* etc.). Once everything is prepared, everyone goes back to the social area to enjoy the meal they grilled. There’s lots of Q&A time. Everyone leaves with an information packet that includes a thank you letter, all the recipes of the evening, plus a timely tips sheet (cold-weather grilling or now grill tune-up tips, etc.).
So, what’s in it for them is that it’s a fun night out with a friend or group of friends where they get to either learn about grilling, or try grilling if they’ve never done it before, or improve their grill skills. It’s a terrific way to bond and also for corporations looking for a fun, new way to bond with their employees or clients. I suppose why should they care would be if they are looking to improve their grill skills or looking for a different night out, especially to celebrate a birthday, an engagement, father/son time together, a family reunion etc.
She added that the appetizers are a new addition because people tend to go there straight from work and arrive peckish. It’s something light, like smoked brie with flatbread and grapes. We got more appetizers, a glass of wine in the beginning, and wine with dinner.
* I always recommend Thermapen.
Weber has been making grills for over 50 years, since 1952.
In 1952 George Stephen Sr. was working at Weber Brothers Metal Works in Chicago, Illinois, manufacturing marine buoys when he came up with an idea for a better grill. His invention: a dome-shaped grill with a lid to protect food from the elements, while sealing in that only-from-the-grill barbecue flavor.
George Stephen cut a buoy in half, added some air vents and legs and, in the process, invented the grill that would spark a backyard revolution.
In 1962 the kettle was redesigned to look more like today’s iconic shape.
After I read this on their website I quizzed Jason about the origins of the Weber Kettle and the company history. He got most of it right!
Get yourself up to Vaughan to the Weber Grill Academy. It’s a fantastic experience for food and outdoor cooking enthusiasts of any level and makes a fantastic gift or group outing. I imagine it would be good for corporate events or bachelor parties.
Weber Grill Academy details
Food is fun and Weber is fun!
Can’t get up to Vaughan?
I can’t NOT encourage you to support my own company. Sign up for The Pork Ninjas newsletter to find BBQ classes in downtown Toronto (very TTC accessible) in spring, summer and fall. Ours are outdoors and are completely different. They both have value for different reasons.
Posts from other bloggers who were there