A female chef who specialises in 160-day whiskey-aged beef, and a former celebrity personal protection specialist turned Brooklyn restaurateur, are among the headliners at at The Big Grill festival, which makes its fifth appearance in Herbert Park, Dublin 4 in August (16th-19th).
More than 20,000 barbecue enthusiasts are expected to attend this celebration of cooking with fire and smoke, described by the organisers as “Europe’s largest barbecue festival”.
According to co-founder Andy Noonan, the 2018 festival has "a distinct international street food vibe, with New York, London, Buenos Aires and Birmingham all represented".
Angie Mar, owner and executive chef at The Beatrice Inn in New York's West Village, learned the art of dry-ageing meat from rebel butcher Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, who in 2012 was expelled from the French butchers' federation for daring to say that British breeds produced the best beef in Europe.
Mar brought the skills she learned from Le Bourdonnec in Paris back to Manhattan, and her 160-day whiskey-aged Tomahawk rib-eye is the centrepoint of a chophouse menu, with a few twists.
She is known for matching “ masculine cuts of meat with feminine herbs and fruit”, and at The Beatrice Inn her whiskey-aged beef sits alongside lavender-aged beef rib on the menu.
Know for her expertise in wet- and dry-ageing techniques and cooking over fire, Mar is originally from Seattle, Washington, where her aunt was one of the pioneers of Chinese food the city, with her Ruby Chow restaurant.
Another New York import for The Big Grill is former celebrity bodyguard Billy Durney, who traded a 20-year career in personal protection to become a pitmaster. His Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook, Brooklyn, sells brisket, pulled pork, lamb belly, turkey and ribs by weight, and is among New York's best known barbecue joints.
From London comes David Carter, former front of house manager at Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, who set up SMOKESTAK, initially as a street food stall, in 2013. With three years' experience on the UK festival circuit, cooking mostly pork and beef ribs in the 4.5 tonne smoker he travelled to Houston, Texas, to purchase, Carter's concept found a permanent home in Shoreditch in late 2016, where even the cocktails and desserts get the SMOKESTAK touch.
Andy Stubbs of Low 'n' Slow, Birmingham, is another street food trader bringing his expertise to The Big Grill. The British Street Food Awards regional winner is known for "seasonal, high welfare produce, all cooked over fire" and traditional Texan barbecue, with occasional Mexican influences.
Irish chefs who will be leaving their gas and electric kitchens behind and reverting to cooking with fire and smoke at The Big Grill include Grainne O’Keefe, head chef at Clanbrassil House. One of O’Keefe’s collaborations was perfecting the signature burgers at BuJo in Sandymount, where she is culinary director.
Jamie Oliver alumnus John Relihan of Holy Smoke in Cork; London restaurateur Robin Gill, and Paul Flynn of The Tannery in Dungarvan, are also on the bill. Fingal Ferguson of Gubbeen Smokehouse will share his knowledge of smoking, as applied to his charcuterie business, as well as knife- making and sharpening, a field in which he is internationally renowned.
Nick Solares of Eater. com's The Meat Show will be the festival's roving reporter, interviewing pitmasters at work. Bastecamp will again be the festival's "smoking hub", with butchery, barbecue and smoking workshops on offer, and the hot wing and chilli challenges are back again, for those with high pain thresholds and not-so-healthy appetites. Christian Stevenson, better known as DJ BBQ, will be the Basecamp host. Stevenson's book, Fire Food, The Ultimate BBQ Cookbook, will be published next month.
The Big Grill is described by John and Sally McKenna in their recent book Ireland's Best, as "one of Dublin's most dynamic food festivals". See biggrillfestival.com.