Some Like It Hot

Seven ways to do chili from your favorite local eateries.
Grizzly's creamy white chicken chili.


The sticky, hot weather has arrived in Minnesota, and Mike Shannon and Karl Benson want to give you a break from the heat by teaching you how to turn off your oven and turn up your grill. Benson, owner of Cooks of Crocus Hill, and Shannon, chef and culinary director, have developed a hands-on grilling class called Time to BBQ, helping students learn to prepare everything from appetizers to dessert, outside on the grill.

In this class at Edina’s Cooks of Crocus Hill on July 21, Benson and Shannon teach the basics of grilling on both gas and charcoal grills, how to not be intimidated by the grill and how to prepare seven gourmet dishes without ever leaving the backyard.

“This class is one of our favorites,” Shannon says. “Karl and I team teach this class; Karl is on the charcoal grill while I man the gas grill, and we talk about what items are better suited to gas versus charcoal.”

The 16 participants in this class learn how to make barbecued potatoes; grilled squash and onions with herbs; soy-ginger marinated chicken; pork tenderloin with mango chutney; flank steak with chimichurri; cedar plank-grilled bourbon-honey salmon; and grilled cinnamon bananas with Mexican chocolate. Also, Shannon and Benson guide students through grill temperatures and testing for doneness.

“We teach the class participants how to be comfortable with grilling,” Shannon says. “People are so afraid of undercooking meat that they tend to cook it to dust. We can alleviate that fear and teach them how to know when it’s done without cutting into the meat and ruining it.”  

Class participants, usually a good mix of men and women, stand side by side these two chefs and really get their hands into the mix by prepare marinades and finishing sauces, handling the cuts of meat and vegetables, and tasting their creations.

“We also add in a couple of quick recipes for sauces that go with what we cook on the grill,” Shannon says. “This gives them the over-the-top finish, and then they can go home and entertain with these recipes.”

Participants also take home printed copies of all recipes discussed during the class.

But the learning doesn’t end there. The two chefs also will discuss their preferred grilling tools, so you can gain the techniques and the tools for becoming an expert griller.

You will have to attend the class to learn the names of these favorite tools, but Benson does say, “We don’t use anything that comes in a standard barbecue cookware set, such as the giant tongs—they don’t work.”

In addition, the chefs advise you on what to buy and what to steer clear of at the grocery store. For example, you don’t need to purchase the most expensive cuts of beef; instead, a simple cut, such as flank steak, can turn into a flavorful meal with the proper grilling technique and finishing sauce at a fraction of the cost.

“We want to reduce their fear of the grill,” Benson says. “After the class, anyone should be able to take a grilling recipe and say, ‘I’m not too intimidated to try this.’”

The most important benefit of this class, as Shannon and Benson both note, is that it gets you outside during the summer months. “Summertime in Minnesota is so short that everyone should try to spend as much time as possible outdoors,” Shannon says.