Few are better qualified to blow the lid off the American barbecue experience than Atlanta chef, restaurateur, speaker, and cookbook author Kevin Gillespie, a guy who titled his first cookbook “Fire In My Belly.” Beginning Thursday, Gillespie has joined founder Stebin Horne and his business partner, Stewart Vernon, as owners of the brand new, innovative KUDU Safari Braai outdoor live fire-cooking system. The KUDU is a multifunctional grill, griddle and fire pit combined; a heavy gauge steel dream come true for backyard fire enthusiasts.
“I love cooking over live fire,” Gillespie says. “With the KUDU, you are cooking without a lid and regulating the heat by creating distance from the heat source. You can cook on multiple surfaces simultaneously. From a culinary standpoint, I have yet to discover something I can’t do on it!”
A few months ago, Kevin was introduced to KUDU creator Stebin Horne and the two entrepreneurs immediately bonded over barbeque. Horne explained that after spending six months with his South African-born wife in her native country, he learned firsthand the communal cooking technique called braai. Local farmers weld a cooktop to their old disc ploughs to cook for friends and family in the backyard. Returning home inspired, Horne, a University of Georgia and Mercer Law graduate, was awarded a fellowship from the Mercer Innovation Center to introduce the cooking concept in the United States. After partnering with Vernon, Horne’s dream came alive.
“Stebin had a great idea and brought it to life,” says Gillespie. “Then Stewart stepped in and made it even bigger. They realized that they needed an expert in the grilling arena. That provided me with the opportunity to join up with this Georgia-based company and help create my ultimate cooking system.”
“We began with a $75,000 Kickstarter campaign,” adds Horne. “We raised that money and then exceeded the goal, thanks to the enthusiastic grilling community we reached. Our first supporters have already received their KUDUs and are raving on social media and in notes to us!
Horne, Gillespie, and the KUDU team will use their access to Mercer’s engineering students and faculty to create new add-on accessories for the grill so patio chefs can fry, boil, steam and roast their favorite foods as well.
“Being part of the creative evolution of this product really appeals to the engineering nerd in me,” says Gillespie. “The users and the developers will be on the journey together. As novice cooks become more skilled on the KUDU, they can simply add on to their existing grill without trading it in for a new one.”
Made of heavy gauge steel, high-temp powder coating and stainless steel fasteners, the KUDU is designed to last a lifetime. While similar professional grade wood-burning grills can cost as much as $5,000, the KUDU is being introduced at the affordable price of $750.
For Gillespie, a guy who created a backyard beer garden called Communion, inviting your friends to be a part of the grilling fun was a huge selling point. “As fast as it is, the KUDU will never cook your food as fast as a gas grill, and that’s the point,” he says. “Sometimes the journey—that time spent with your family and loved ones—is more important than the destination.”
The KUDU experience will include a tremendous amount of online content, such as videos of Gillespie showing everything from initial setup to firing up as many as six cooking surfaces on the grill simultaneously before transforming it into a late-night fire pit for guests. There will be tutorials, recipes, KUDU accessories and gear, along with an interactive KUDU Nation to provide consumers a place to interact with other KUDU users.”
“At first glance, the KUDU can look a little intimidating,” Gillespie says, laughing. “This is definitely not for the set-it-and-forget-it home cook. This is for a patio griller who wants to enjoy that cinder smoke, the scent of wafting wood burning across your backyard and how that results in a phenomenal flavor profile. I don’t put my name on a lot of products, but I’m proud to attach my name to the KUDU.”