Sizzling Satisfaction: Light the Fire with Lessons from Le Cordon Green

written by Colleen Ann McNally | photography courtesy of BIG GREEN EGG

BIG GREEN EGG IS TO GRILLING what a Harley-Davidson is to motorcycling. In other words, it’s a lifestyle and has a cult following that has continued to grow since the company’s first storefront at the intersection of Clairmont Road and Buford Highway. In fact, it’s now the world’s largest producer and international distributor of the highest-quality ceramic cooking system.

Maybe you already know this. Maybe you’re an “Egghead,” or that description fits the bill of your husband or the neighbor whose barbecues are the talk of the cul-da-sac and — although you might not admit it — whose skills with a spatula make you green with envy.

Anyone who’s scratched their head while trying to assemble a Big Green Egg (BGE) or has accidentally burned some arm hairs after forgetting to “burp” their Egg, knows you can’t achieve “Eggspert” status overnight.

“You’ve got to build your way to brisket,” as Chef Amanda Egidio, manger of the BGE Culinary Center, likes to say. And there’s no better way to learn the ins and outs (including the aforementioned burping) than by enrolling in one of Egidio’s classes. Also known as Le Cordon Green, the state-of-the-art demo kitchen and outdoor classroom Egidio oversees is located on Dekalb Technology Parkway. Just inside the Perimeter, this mac-daddy headquarters opened a few years ago and is quite hard to miss from I-85, thanks to a massive replica of the esteemed culinary gadget.

Inside the facility, guests can find Eggs of different sizes and all the gear necessary to grill, roast, smoke and bake their days away. There are also, of course, the hands-on or demonstration-style classes that range in topics and timeframes.

An amateur myself, I signed up to cook, eat and learn my way through a Basics course — ideal for those who’ve received a new Egg as a holiday gift, or for those looking to brush up on their grill skills. For two hours on a Thursday evening, the class agenda covered components, assembly, lighting and other tips of set up as well as preparing a four-course menu.

Be sure to save your appetite before attending one of these classes. I was in for a treat of grilled romaine with Maytag blue cheese and vinaigrette, cedar-planked Thai chili salmon, ribeyes with BGE’s Cosmic Cow rub and grilled donuts with brandied peaches. By the class’s culmination, more than enough food had been cooked to go around — not to mention, upon arrival, we were welcomed with nibbles and a varied selection of beers, wine and sparkling water. After all, any event at BGE is as much of a social gathering as an educational experience. 

After sampling bites of smoky pimento cheese, prosciutto and mayo grilled cheeses and bacon jalapeño dip, I took my seat and surveyed the crowd. Egidio cracked jokes and encouraged audience participation as much as she encouraged us to refill our glasses. It became apparent we were a motley crew of newcomers and seasoned veterans, couples on a date night, folks flying solo, fathers bonding with sons as well as girlfriends enjoying a night out. It was easy to see that “Harley-Davidson” metaphor come to life and I began to grasp the scientific rationale behind BGE’s mass appeal.

Their website puts it this way: “In the beginning, there was wood, dry leaves, lightning and eventually, fire. Early man soon learned about the flavor benefits of cooking meat over this exciting discovery, which quickly gained acclaim as far superior to gnawing on raw Tyrannosaurus ribs! Eventually, specialties such as smoked Brie and s’mores were added to their culinary repertoire…”

Halfway through the class, it was time to move to the outdoor kitchen and we dispersed around different Eggs to tackle our menu. From here, you can be as involved or as passive as you prefer. Personally, I was content to sit back and watch my classmates do the hard work. Instead, I picked the brains of the many friendly volunteers while the tantalizing smells wafted through the air. They swapped anecdotes of recipe success (endless possibilities from pizza to cakes to chocolate-chip cookies) or home experiments gone awry and recounted memories from last year’s EGGtoberfest.

Atlanta has hosted this festival every October since 1998 and it has grown into a festive, family-oriented weekend celebration where more than 200 EGGs are fired up by new and experienced EGGheads to feed the enthusiastic crowd of 3,000- plus people. An extension of the classes, workshops and half-day barbecue boot camps at the BGE Culinary Center, festivalgoers see firsthand the versatility of the intriguing ceramic cooker. 

Perhaps what makes a cooking class so popular is that it’s more than a onetime thrill. Whether you go as a pair or gift the experience, there’s a romantic notion that your special someone might return ready to recreate the menu for you or find inspiration in trying something new. Or, he/she will find a new hobby, and you’ll gift yourself time away from the stove.

This month’s lineup includes “Tame the Flame — 10 Fun Foods to Expand Your EGG Techniques” with Chef Mark Clark on Feb. 11 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Hint: the menu includes grilled lobster, bacon, chicken wings three ways, roasted red peppers, grilled corn in the husk, Caveman steaks and more. Further into the month is a two-part series (also led by Clark, Egidio’s right-hand man) focused on fundamentals, held Feb. 16 and 23.

If Dekalb is too long of a haul, check the website for local authorized dealers, such as the East Cobb Cook’s Warehouse or Roswell Hardware, that offer their own classes. Hurry, however, as these can fill up months in advance.

In the meantime, since we love our readers, we’re sharing that delectable donuts recipe. The wise Egidio swears Krispy Kreme’s work best, but you could test out your Bon Glaze leftovers and let us know how it goes.