Barbecue University: An Insider’s View


Dear “Up in Smoke” Subscriber,

As far as I know, only one person has attended Barbecue University™ more times than I have: Barbara Raichlen, Steven’s wife.  She was there in 2001 when Steven founded the school, and has personally watched it evolve into one of the most popular culinary vacations in the country.

Hi.  I’m Nancy Loseke, Steven’s assistant and the Features Editor of Up in Smoke.  If you are one of the people who has written to me asking to be notified immediately if I tire of my position, I am advising you not to hold your breath or quit your day job.  I’ve got it good, and I know it.

One of the many perks of being the assistant to the world’s foremost authority on all things barbecue is nearly unlimited access to Barbecue University™, or as we call it, BBQ U.  Truthfully, I don’t know how many times I’ve “repeated” the class since I joined Steven’s organization in the Spring of 2005.  But I always learn something new and meet wonderful and interesting people, many of whom I’m still in touch with.  There’s nothing like great food and live-fire cooking to bring people together.

We’ve just announced dates for next year’s sessions of BBQ U—only two, as Steven is working on a new book and TV show—and if you’re motivated to further your barbecue education (and cultivate potential friends for life!), you may want to get in queue now as classes fill up fast. You can read all about BBQ U™ in the October issue of the Robb Report. Newly-minted grill masters and mistresses often sign up for the next session before the ink has dried on their BBQ U-issued diplomas.

Though a serial student of Barbecue University™ myself, the 2008 session was the best so far. It was magic. I can’t wait for 2009.

Within minutes of my Friday night arrival at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs last June, I was ensconced in a beautiful room in the historic hotel.  I went to sleep with the silhouette of the Rocky Mountains outside my west-facing windows.  The Broadmoor, incidentally, is an easy drive from the Denver International Airport—about 90 minutes—although you can also take a commuter flight directly to Colorado Springs.

Their first night on “campus,” incoming students are treated to a welcoming cocktail party and dinner featuring specialties from the Broadmoor’s more than dozen on-site restaurants.    Most people in attendance have been looking forward to the BBQ U experience for months, and their anticipation is at its zenith.    I especially enjoy hearing the stories of how people got here—how one woman tricked her husband into believing they were attending a financial conference, or how a daughter surprised her father with a trip just for the two of them.

(It goes without saying that reservations for Barbecue University™ make unforgettable holiday gifts.  And the 2009 schedule conveniently abuts Father’s Day!)

There were no less than two dozen grills and smokers in the “burn area” at BBQ U, 2009.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Loseke.

I love the next morning, too, when the students breakfast on the mountain and first lay eyes on the “burn area” where the grills—some two dozen—are lined up, sexy as sports cars, the shiny stainless steel reflecting the blue skies and jaw-dropping scenery.  Some people linger around the fire pit, as mornings can be cool in the Rockies.  But most stake out their seats in the lecture area, jostling for front-row views.  At 9 a.m. sharp, the “professor” begins sharing the knowledge he’s accumulated about the world’s barbecuing and grilling traditions.

As you can imagine, it takes a considerable amount of manpower (and womanpower, I might personally add!) to set up all the grills and organize a field kitchen for the classes. But the genial staff, led by Food and Beverage Director Craig Reed, lived up to the Broadmoor’s can-do reputation.

The lessons take a practical turn once Steven starts demonstrating the food preparation—an ambitious eight or nine recipes each day. Teams are recruited to help, and soon, everyone has moved outside where the real live-fire action takes place. Meanwhile, the Broadmoor’s Executive Chef, Austrian Siegfried Eisenberg, prepares lunch for the class using the same recipes the students make in class. En masse, the class moves back inside to plate the dishes they’ve grilled or barbecued. Competition is fierce for the most attractive presentation. Steven summarizes the day’s lessons and fields questions.

Broadmoor culinary student Katharine helps Steven illustrate the finer points of brisket.
Photo courtesy of Pat Hemenway.

Spirits are high when everyone sits down for lunch to trade grilling tricks and/or war stories, or make plans for the rest of the day.  (Afternoon naps are often mentioned, but the Broadmoor offers a large menu of recreational opportunities, including golf on one of its championship golf courses, tennis, spa services, art classes, horseback riding, etc.  Nearby are tourist attractions such as Garden of the Gods, the Air Force Academy, Pike’s Peak, a world-class zoo, quaint towns, and many other things.)

On Day 3 of BBQ U, students discover the test Steven’s been alluding to—an oral and written exam—is real. But to my knowledge, no one has ever flunked. Personalized diplomas validate the entire experience. And individual framed photos with Steven give attendees bragging rights when they return home.

As I said earlier, two sessions of Barbecue University™ have been scheduled for 2009: the first runs from June 11 – 14; the second takes place June 14 – 17. For reservations or more information, contact the Broadmoor: 1-800-634-7711.

Steven has already selected the recipes for Barbecue University™, 2009.  It’s a sensational list, folks, that highlights dishes from Steven’s travels on Planet Barbecue, including:

–a spectacular Colombian lomo al trapo (whole beef tenderloin wrapped in a cloth with salt and roasted in the embers)
–piri piri prawns
–leg of lamb provencale
–Indian grill breads with grilled cheese kebabs
–a spectacular whole hog spit-roasted Greek Island style.

In the meantime, here are two of my favorite recipes from the 2008 session:


This is a terrific salad for Fall, one I have made several times and always to great reviews.  It would mesh well with a Thanksgiving menu.  (Scatter with sweetened dried cranberries, if desired.)

Lori puts the finishing touches on Grilled Endives with Roquefort and Walnuts at Barbecue University™, 2008.
Photo courtesy of Pat Hemenway.

Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 4

8 Belgian endives, trimmed and halved lengthwise (See Note)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup English walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (2 to 3 ounces) crumbled blue cheese, preferably Roquefort
1/4 cup curly parsley, finely minced

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

Brush the endives with olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Arrange the endives on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side, turning with tongs.

Transfer the endives to a platter; arrange in two rows of eight pieces each down the length of the platter.  Sprinkle the walnuts, cheese, and parsley down the center of the platter.  Serve immediately.

Note: A mix of green and red endives (the latter is also called Treviso) makes an especially attractive presentation.


Spatchcocked game hens pay homage to the 2008 Olympic games.
From left, Jessica, Larry, Steven, Matt, and Chris.
Photo courtesy of Pat Hemenway.

Method: Direct grilling under a brick
Serves: 2 to 4
Advance Preparation: 2 hours for marinating the game hens

For the marinade:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup boiling water
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large bunch fresh basil, stemmed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 game hens (1 to 1-1/4 pound each)*

For serving:
Fresh basil sprigs
Lemon wedges
Cherry tomatoes

You’ll also need:
4 bricks completely wrapped with heavy-duty aluminum foil
A spray bottle of water to control flare-ups

Combine the oil, lemon juice, water, garlic, basil, salt and pepper in a blender and process to a smooth paste.  Refrigerate if not using immediately; it’s best the day it’s made.

For each hen, remove the packet of giblets (if any) from the body cavity and set aside for another use.  Remove and discard any excess fat just inside the body cavity of the game hen; rinse the bird, inside and out, under cold running water, then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels.  Place the bird, breast side down, on a cutting board.

Using poultry shears or a sharp knife, cut through the flesh and bone along both sides of the backbone.  Cut from the tail end to the head end and completely remove the backbone.

Open out the bird (like opening a book) by gently pulling the halves apart.  Using a sharp paring life, lightly score the top of the breastbone.  Run your thumbs along and under the sides of the breastbone and attached cartilage and pop them out.  Spread the bird out flat.

Turn the bird over.  Using a sharp knife, make a slit in the skin between the lower end of the breastbone and the leg, on each side, approximately 1/2 inch long (you’re trying to accommodate the end of the drumstick).  Stick the end of the drumstick on that side through the slit.

Put the spatchcocked hens into a nonreactive baking dish and pour the marinade over them, turning to coat completely.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, preferably for 1 hour.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.  When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate.  Arrange the game hens on the hot grate, all facing the same direction, at a 45 degree angle to the bars of the grate.  Place a brick on top of each.  Grill for 6 to 8 minutes per side; replace the bricks after turning.  The bricks make it more difficult to control spontaneous flare-ups, so have a spray bottle on hand and use it judiciously if the flames threaten to burn the hens.  The hens are done when an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh (but not reaching the bone) registers about 170 degrees F.

Transfer the hens to a platter; let rest for 3 minutes before serving.  Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil, lemon wedges, and cherry tomatoes.

*Game hens are available from if you can’t find them locally.

We hope to see you in 2009!

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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