Food & Beverage: A View to a Grill

Ritz-Carlton resorts pride themselves on the exemplary—and highly specialized—service they deliver. Depending on the individual property, guests may avail themselves of the services of butlers and concierges dedicated to the arts of everything from tanning, golf, and fireplaces to wildlife, skiing, and even citrus.

At the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, outside of Atlanta, the BBQ Butler program proved so popular that it evolved into a full-fledged BBQ University. Rather than simply indulging in the finger-licking creations of a BBQ Butler, groups of 10 or fewer can learn how to master the grill themselves.

Groups must be staying at the resort's Presidential House or at one of the lakeside cottages to partake in BBQ University. The meeting planner selects the entrees, sides, and beverages in advance off a menu, as well as the type of wood used in the grilling. Then, on the night of the event, the group gathers outside the cottage for the lesson and meal.

"As you arrive, everything is already set up, and we give you aprons and recipe books, which you can take home. Then we start the lecture on how to get the coals very hot, what the wood should look like, how to know when it's time to flip the meats," says Executive Chef Scott Gambone. When the lesson ends, the grilling begins. Group members are welcome to help slather on the sauce, marinate the meats, and flip the burgers. "Depending on the group, they'll either push the chef out of the way and start grilling themselves, or they'll prefer to just watch, hang out, and have the chef cook for them. It can go either way."

Gambone says the education part of the event, which includes a tutorial on different types of meats and marinades and on making barbecue sauces, typically runs about an hour. When the grilling is done, the chef will serve the meal inside either the cottage or Presidential House, depending on where the group is staying, or out on the verandas, which overlook Lake Oconee and the golf course.

Despite the involvement of sharp instruments and hot coals, Gambone says he's never had a mishap as the group grills. He estimates that he, or a senior member of his team of chefs and cooks, leads a BBQ University at least once per week. Although family reunions and small bridal parties do enroll, Gambone says the event is most popular with corporate executive groups on retreat.

Originally published December 01, 2007

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