grills

Grill Wars

Three chefs. Three grills. Three dishes. Go!

Lizbeth Scordo Current PSL, Restaurants

grills
For Executive Chef Herve Glin of the Parker Palm Springs, his wine-soaked wood chips are key to grilling..
PHOTOGRAPHS BY NATE ABBOTT

They arrive at a magnificent midcentury home in the classic Las Palmas neighbor-hood of Palm Springs, a property set so close to the mountains that the rock formations practically melt into the backyard.

It’s a sunny and scorching afternoon, and the three chefs have come with coolers, containers, and shopping bags stuffed with ingredients running the grocery gamut from cactus paddles and colorful carrots to brioche and burrata, unloading everything in the increasingly frenzied kitchen before heading out to their stations by the sparkling swimming pool.

They’re here to cook a few favorites — dishes they’ve cooked hundreds of times. Today, however, instead of firing up the equipment they know and love in their familiar kitchens, they’re each trying a newfangled grill and reporting back on what they liked, what they didn’t, and whether they (and maybe you) can’t live without it.


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Chefs Michael Gallardo, Herve Glin, and Andie Hubka break for a rosé toast.

the chef:
andie hubka

Executive chef and owner,
Cork & Fork, La Quinta
Heirloom Craft Kitchen, Indio

the grill

evo professional wheeled cart ($3,695)

Chef Hubka quickly declares this baby is what dinner dreams are made of and that she even spent the previous evening watching YouTube videos to familiarize herself with the circular griddle-style grill that heats from below by gas tube burners. Thanks to its large cooking surface and the fact that this monster comes on wheels, it’s often used at festivals, where Hubka has spotted it in action. “I’m so excited,” she says. “This is totally my speed. I like super-high temps, and a griddle is really consistent. When you have a grill with the actual flames there’s inconsistent heating and flare-ups. I like reliability.”

To take advantage of the screaming-hot flat top, which she compares to a cast-iron skillet, Hubka has a gooey grilled cheese in mind — one piled with applewood-smoked bacon, sharp white cheddar cheese, heirloom tomatoes, and a caper-dill aioli. It’s a dish that plays perfectly to her whimsical take on comfort food and one that’s on both of her restaurants’ menus. There’s a tried-and-true three-cheese traditional grilled cheese served with tomato basil soup at Heirloom and a short-rib stuffed “grown-up” version at Cork & Fork. “I just love grilled cheese,” she says.

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Andie Hubka preps the aioli for her grilled cheese in the kitchen.

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Andie Hubka’s decadent and delicious finished sandwich.

briochebread

The brioche bread is a key component.

Because the Evo offers two temperature zones, she first cooks her bacon in the hotter center and then adds the tomatoes in a ring around the outside minutes later. “It’s amazing,” Hubka gushes while sipping a glass of rosé at the now-sizzling grill. “The bacon drippings are kind of basting the tomatoes.” Then comes the brioche, slathered with the aioli and topped with the cheese. “You could do sourdough, but brioche toasts nicely because it’s got egg in it so it browns really well. It holds up to the high temperatures.”

All goes according to plan. The cheese starts melting while the bread crisps up. Hubka watches over it all, turning the sandwiches once before giving them a final sear, taking everything off the barbecue, and serving the suddenly oozy goodness. “The biggest mistake people make is they mess with stuff too much when they’re grilling,” says Hubka, who also teaches cooking classes. “Meat, especially, should be turned only once or twice. Not 20 times. Otherwise you never develop caramelization and flavor.”

grill grade: A
chef feedback:

“I loved it. I really want one. It’s awesome. I think my favorite thing about it is its versatility. To me it’s kind of like a social grill; everybody can stand around. It’s really cool.”

bacon

Bacon drippings 
coat heirloom tomatoes on the flat-top grill.

the chef:
herve glin

Executive Chef, Parker Palm Springs


the grill:

Mmon Oncle Portable Grill ($390)

This Spanish-made barbecue is arguably the most unusual of the bunch — a pretty, portable grill with only 200 square inches of cooking space that is meant to look like an old-fashioned traveling trunk done up in poppy pastels. Chef Glin is accustomed to stylish things. He does, after all, work at the Parker. But that’s not what he focuses on when it comes to his grill. “I’m a flavor guy,” says Glin, who was raised in the coastal region of Brittany, France. “I like spice, herbs, seasoning. It’s important to me.”

He’s hoping the charcoal-fueled barbecue will pack the flavor punch he wants for his duo of dishes: blistered bright-red tomatoes on the vine and Hen of the Woods mushrooms doused with a vibrant wild arugula and marcona almond purée and a sprinkling of Parmesan. The mushrooms are a signature item at Counter Reformation, the Parker’s sleek and sexy wine bar where Glin churns out stunning small plates nightly.

 herveglin

Herve Glin hits 
his tomatoes 
with some salt.

mononcleportablegrill

The small and stylish Mon Oncle Portable Grill.

herveglinparkerpalmsprings

Wine not? Chef sneaks in a sip while the mushrooms cook.

After propping the grill on a side table (otherwise he’d be forced 
to sit on the ground) and lighting the charcoal, the chef takes out 
the wood chips he had soaked in red wine overnight to burn with 
the charcoal. “You’ll get smokiness from the wine and oak from 
the wood.”

The Mon Oncle may be mini, but it turns out to be mighty. The tomatoes char up in no time over high heat. Glin removes them with kitchen tweezers to be plated with creamy burrata cheese that gets even softer when it’s hit with the warmth of the tomatoes.

Mushrooms come next. Glin prefers Hen of the Woods for their firmness. He places them over less direct heat for low-and-slow cooking, allowing the grill to do its thing, and ends up impressed. “I wanted to play with flavor, I wanted to use real fire, and I wanted the mushrooms toasted and smoky,” he explains. And that’s just what it did. He points out one potential problem: While the Mon Oncle is meant to be taken on outings, it stays hot for hours after use, requiring it to cool down before it can be packed up and taken home.

Glin will most likely stick with his industrial-style grill for prawns and steaks at the restaurants and his charcoal barbecue he often uses at home to prepare one of his family’s favorites: duck. Glin says everyone could use a little more cooking over an open flame in their lives. “I think people don’t know their grills, and that’s the problem. You need to test it, try different temperatures, figure out what works, and after that you’ll use it much more.”

grill grade: B+
chef feedback:

“I really like it. It’s built well. It’s got good air circulation. It did exactly what I needed it to do.”

the chef:
michael gallardo

Executive chef, Alebrije Bistro, Palm Springs


the grill:

Fuego Professional Grill ($499)

It’s clear from the moment chef Gallardo sets foot in the house that he doesn’t do small meals. He unpacks multiple marbled rib eyes (his favorite thing to grill), octopus spilling over with tentacles, Technicolor vegetables ranging from emerald cactus to blood-red chili peppers to multiple shades of zucchini, and a selection of sauces and sides he whipped up ahead of time. Every item impresses before it even goes near the grill — and that’s the point, says Gallardo, a native of Mexico who trained in the culinary mecca of Mexico City when he was only 20. “I prefer simple things. We are not inventing something here, and I think chefs just need to respect the ingredients.” At the modern Mexican eatery Alebrije he blends Mexican fare with French cuisine and technique. Case in point: the duck he serves with pomegranate, port wine, butternut squash, and cherries. “It’s more of a fusion dish, and that’s how I like to cook.”

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octopus

The grill may have disappointed, but the octopus was a winner.

 asparagu

Gallardo’s asparagus, squash, and cactus paddles sit beside rosemary sprigs and chiles, and the pulpo is cooked to perfection (no thanks to his grill).

The Fuego has the potential for greatness thanks to its tech pedigree: The free-standing dual-level domed grill with a two-zone burner system was designed by the former chief of design at Apple and designer of Beats by Dre headphones. Gallardo gives it a serious go, throwing on ears of corn and the big beautiful octopus that he has already blanched. “It just needs to be grilled for a few minutes,” he notes. He gets the cactus going, too. “It’ll get color from the grill, and I need a few parts just a little burned to give it that perfect flavor.” Last (at least for this round), he’s warming up a potato purée along with his sauces — including an ultra-fragrant guajillo-chili-and-garlic oil to baste and top the octopus — in pots right on the grate

But something’s wrong. The grill is cranked up as high as it’ll go, but it’s not nearly hot enough. The octopus remains limp. The corn isn’t charring. It’s doing an OK job warming up the contents of the pots, but Gallardo worries he’ll be waiting until dark to get anything cooked.

“I prefer simple things. We are not inventing something here, and I think chefs just need to respect the ingredients.”Michael Gallardo

“It just needs more power,” he sighs. His fellow chefs offer to give him some of their prime grilling real estate. “Don’t kill yourself,” Glin yells over. Gallardo gives in, moving his corn to the Mon Oncle and his octopus and cactus to Hubka’s Evo. He even ends up cooking his steaks — which he later plates with a zippy pumpkin-seed mole and amazingly intense onion purée — on the Evo. They come out perfectly, no thanks to the Fuego … which didn’t live up to its fiery name in the end.

grill grade: C-
chef feedback:

“I liked the grill, and I know it would have given good flavor. It just doesn’t get hot enough and takes too long.”

the recipes
grilled cheese with bacon,
grilled tomatoes, and herby lemon aioli

Serves four

For the sandwich:
8 slices applewood-smoked bacon
2–3 large, firm heirloom tomatoes, sliced into ½-inch rounds
8 slices thick white bread, such as brioche or sourdough
16 slices sharp white cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons clarified butter

For the aioli:
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons minced capers
2 tablespoons minced 
fresh dill
juice and zest of ½ small lemon
kosher salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the cast-iron griddle to high heat. Cook the bacon first, rendering the fat until the bacon is crispy and cooked thoroughly, turning over halfway through the process.
When the bacon is finished, remove and drain on paper towels.

Add your tomatoes to the griddle as the bacon is finishing. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper during the cooking. They should be turned once they are browned on one side; remove and drain on paper towels once both sides cook (this will not take long).

Meanwhile, prepare your aioli by combining the ingredients in a small cylindrical cup and using an immersion blender to purée.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread a layer of aioli on one side of each piece of bread. Follow with a piece of the cheddar cheese on four of the slices. Add two pieces of the cooked bacon on top, breaking into smaller pieces if necessary. Add a slice or two of the tomato, followed by another piece of cheese, and lastly the top bread slice (with the aioli-covered side facing inward).

Clean and prepare the griddle for the sandwiches by adding half of the clarified butter. Place the prepared sandwiches onto the center of the griddle and then cover with the dome lid. Cook for two to three minutes or until the bottom of the sandwich is golden brown. 

Flip the sandwiches, adding the remaining clarified butter to the griddle and replacing the lid. Cook until the second side is golden brown and the cheese has thoroughly melted.

Remove to a cutting board to cool slightly, then cut in half and serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe courtesy of Andie Hubka

•  •  •

chef herve’s tomatoes

Serves four

4 ounces cherry tomatoes on the vine or grape tomatoes
½ cup chili oil
6 ounces burrata cheese
1 ounce American caviar
¼ cup chopped chives
crushed sea salt, to taste
microgreens
zest of 1 lemon

Wash tomatoes and drain on paper towels.

Prep grill. Add wood chips soaked overnight in red wine atop the charcoal for enhanced flavor; drain the wood chips in the morning and dry under the sun until use.

Spread burrata on the plate, then add a drop of caviar, lemon zest, and chives on each plate. Roll the tomatoes in chili oil and grill them on hot charcoal for two minutes. Remove and place on the burrata. Garnish with microgreens.

Recipe courtesy of Herve Glin

•  •  •

pulpo a las brasas con ajillo

Serves four to six

For the pulpo a las brasas:
3 gallons water
1 whole octopus
3 celery stalks
1 clove garlic
1 red onion
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
salt, to taste

For the ajillo:
4 dry guajillo chiles
4 garlic cloves
juice of 2 Mexican sweet limes
olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add all the pulpo a las brasas ingredients, except the octopus, and boil for a few minutes to start the broth.

Add the whole octopus and return to a boil; once boiling, remove from heat and let rest for 20 minutes. When the octopus is cool enough to handle, cut the octopus into large pieces and set aside. (You can slice the tentacles into small pieces if the dish is an appetizer or leave whole for presentation purposes if serving on a dinner platter.)

michaelgallardochef

The perfectly plated final products.

To prepare the ajillo, stem and slice the guajillo chiles into thin strips, removing the seeds. Peel the garlic cloves and make thin slices with the help of a mandolin. Juice the limes.

Add four tablespoons of olive oil to a hot pan; once sizzling, add the garlic and guajillo slices. Cook for a few minutes, then season with salt and pepper, add the lime juice, remove from heat, and set aside.

Massage the octopus with the ajillo, placing it directly on the grill and leaving it for a few minutes to achieve the smoked flavor of chile and garlic.

To serve, drizzle the octopus with the extra ajillo. The dish pairs well with grilled vegetables, which should also be topped with the sauce.

Recipe courtesy of Michael Gallardo