"The generic idea of a grill is bad feng shui," says robert brunner. "You’ve got your back to everybody as opposed to facing them or being with them." Brunner is one of several new designers who are acknowledging the social aspect of grilling and creating equipment with parties in mind. The first step: removing that hinged lid, which can act as a barrier between cook and guests. The three grills on these pages also include features like covered burners and downdraft ventilation, to help keep irritating smoke to a minimum.
Los Angeles-based interior designer Troy Adams has taken a teppanyaki griddle—traditionally built into the center of a low table, so guests can cook communally—and updated it by using a slab of honed black granite. "One of the things I really love about this style of grilling is that it’s a very social thing," Adams says. "People are gathered around the grill, and everyone’s engaged in conversation." The custom table is large enough to allow people to eat as well as cook there, and it can be installed with a well underneath so diners can sit comfortably on the ground. Since the grill uses both gas and charcoal, it’s particularly versatile. In addition, a downdraft ventilation system keeps smoke under control (from $7,500; troyadamsdesign.com).
Robert Brunner of Pentagram Design and Alex Siow of Zephyr Ventilation wanted to create a streamlined grill for parties that nonetheless had a lot of practical design elements: the ability to cook using gas, charcoal or infrared; a built-in slate cutting board; teak countertops to rest a wineglass on; and storage compartments that take advantage of underutilized space beneath the grill. Their sleek Fuego 01 offers all of this— it changes from gas to charcoal to infrared with a simple switch of a drawer that contains the fuel source. At just 38 inches wide, the Fuego 01 is also remarkably space-efficient, unlike many other grills on the market. "Most grills you see today are quite bulky, especially in the high-end category," says Siow. "They’re almost like the Hummer version of the barbecue." Plus, the sides of the Fuego feature a Peg Board-like design that allows the addition of accessories, such as a spice rack, paper-towel holder and even a Champagne bucket ($3,500; fuegoliving.com).
Memories of watching his mother cook food directly on a cast-iron wood-burning stove when he was a child inspired Bob Shingler to invent the Evo grill. "I wanted to re-create that feeling of hanging out in the kitchen," he says. The flat-top design avoids the grease flare-ups often associated with open-flame grills, and the round shape allows guests to gather around as the cook works— "I call it convivial grilling," Shingler says. With two concentric burners, the grill can range in temperature from 225 to 670 degrees—a design similar to a French top. Evo grills can cook food laid directly on the surface, like a griddle or a Spanish plancha, or in pots and pans. Evo has also just introduced a built-in version for indoor kitchens ($2,850 for Professional Series Wheeled Cart, $1,700 for Companion Tabletop; 503-626-1802 or evoamerica.com).