How to grill over a live fire

Go hands on with celeb chef Michael Chiarello, who shows us how to build a firepit fast and grill great food

Live-fire cooking
Photo by Thomas J. Story

Live-fire cooking

Long before he became a celebrity, Michael Chiarello loved cooking over fire. As a boy—with the Emmy-winning TV shows, the family winery, and two restaurants (Bottega, in the Napa Valley, and San Francisco’s Coqueta) still ahead of him—he helped his Italian grandparents light the woodstove every morning at their ranch near Mt. Shasta, California. “It wasn’t just starting a fire; it was a ritual,” he says. “It’s where I learned to cook.”

As he grew older, he cooked in a woodburning oven outside too, with his nonna, aunts, and mother. A fire’s need to be fed and stoked appealed to him: “There’s a relationship in tending it,” he says. And it could be easy to create. “When my uncle would go mushroom hunting with us, he’d bring four bricks and a grate, set up a firepit, and grill the mushrooms.” In Chiarello’s book, Live Fire (Chronicle Books), and here with us, he drew on those memories to spin a whole menu from a homemade firepit.

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