Like every chef in our coronavirus-plagued universe, Brendan McGill has pivoted. His Bainbridge Island restaurant, Hitchcock, now offers a CSA and popups that range from paella to tacos; neighboring Hitchcock Deli sells smash burgers by the sack.
His latest side hustle, however, flips the script. Instead of providing food for customers, McGill has co-founded a line of custom grills designed to amp up home cooks’ backyards, or give multitasking chefs like himself a better way to cook outside in a summer when that’s perhaps the only viable option for keeping restaurants afloat.
Vesta Grills began, says McGill, is “a pivot on a pivot.” He wanted a hearth grill to use for socially distanced outdoor farm dinners this summer, but none of the ones on the market had what he needed. Like wheels—a necessity for maneuvering a 600-pound grill across a bumpy fields. They did, however, have price tags upward of $15,000.
McGill drew up some specs on a napkin and sent it to Jeremy Loerch at Alchemy Industrial Arts, a fellow Bainbridger and the guy who fabricated the fixtures, table bases, and cladding at his pizzeria, Bruciato. Loerch in turn designed a sturdy hearth grill and an elaborate array of chef-specified accessories, like a plancha, chicken basket, asado cross, and a series of shelves, racks, and hooks that lets you, say, suspend a steak over coals, roast whole peppers over indirect heat, or grill something more delicate, like a whole fish.
The result, a handsome behemoth of steel and fire brick, inspired the two to form a company. Vesta Grills sells that napkin-designed grill of McGill’s dreams for about $5,000. Buyers can customize he size, and a mind-bending array of features. One recent evening, Hitchcock Deli staged an oyster saloon on the front patio that had cooks grilling oysters, steaming clams in a pan, and crisping garlic bread on the plancha. Soon after, they rearranged the whole setup to make tacos.
Thus far, the earliest customers have been chefs, but this cries out to a certain breed of hardcore home cooks, the kind who appreciate the nuances of flame-based cooking and spend a lot more time in the backyard these days, rather than going out. A Vesta Grills website is en route, but right now McGill and Loerch take orders via Instagram DM.