Ted Reader wants to take backyard barbecue to gourmet heights

Ted Reader wants to take backyard barbecue to gourmet heights

Plankhead: Ted Reader at the Cookbook Store yesterday 

Yesterday’s rain didn’t stop barbecue king Ted Reader from grilling up a storm at Yorkville’s Cookbook Store, where he was signing copies of his new (and already award-winning) book, Napoleon’s Everyday Gourmet Plank Grilling. This is the chef’s third tribute to his favourite smoking technique, which involves barbecuing food by placing it on a slab of wood rather than on a grill. Reader’s new recipes reveal how to plank-cook everything from steak and burgers to lasagna and Twinkies. The chef is appearing this afternoon at First Canadian Place, where he’ll be doing additional cooking and fielding questions from those looking for last-minute Father’s Day ideas. Reader will also give away a Napoleon Travel Q portable grill (with which he’s travelled the country), among other prizes.

We caught up with the George Brown grad for a chat between rounds of planked brie marinated in pineapple and rum sauce. Reader first got into the grilling game as a child. When his father’s beat-up barbecue gave out, the family started cooking on a coal-filled wheelbarrow. Though he has a whopping 105 grills and smokers in his backyard these days, he hasn’t lost the taste for ingenuity that first drew him to the grill and that has inspired his 16 cookbooks. Of the craft, he says, “I live it, breathe it, eat it, smoke it, smell it, inhale it every day of the year, and that’s not a complaint!”

The President’s Choice poster boy, whom GQ once called the “crazy Canuck barbecue kingpin,” is determined to kick the grill up a notch on the culinary pecking order. “My idea is to take barbecue to a higher level, to the gourmet. I want everyone to be the king of their ’cue,” he says. His line of feisty gourmet sauces (one of the few products available at both Pusateri’s and Canadian Tire) is a good start. But for Reader, the backyard dinner party he threw last night was about as good as it gets: “A bunch of beer and some Jack Daniel’s and I’m feeling pretty good.”