top of page
On a perfect fall afternoon, Stephen and his wife Celeste, who is a chef, gathered 28 friends together for a magical day years in the making. The first time they saw Francis Mallmann on season one of Netfilx’s Chef’s Table, they began talking about having an asado, or South American-style barbecue, of their own. “This is something Celeste has wanted to do for years,” said Stephen, “and I’m so happy we were finally able to make it happen.”
Planning started two months in advance. Celeste researched Mallmann’s dishes, crafting a menu that would be cooked over hot coals and fire. Stephen had a research project of his own, determining how to build a structure of grates and hanging areas that would allow Celeste to do a variety of proteins and vegetables at different temperatures.
Structure was built with 1/2 in. black steel pipe connected by unions.
Veggies & fish grilled on the top grate.
Basting brine cooks on the fire.
Lowest level grills at the hottest temp.
After the structure was built at their lake house and the menu determined, invites went out to friends and family. “This is truly a celebration of our ability to gather again,” said Celeste. “We loved the idea of having everyone together, nothing too fancy, just good food, good wine and good people.”
Early in the morning, as the fog rolled in over the lake, and strong coffee was being poured, Stephen started the fire. As the fog burned off, the fire roared and around 9 am the first food was put on. Chickens hung from metal hooks and were basted by a homegrown herb brush and brine. Acorn squash were rolled into the coals, potatoes crackled on a grill grate and whole cabbages hung like the chickens.
Ten Chickens were hung by wire from the top level.
30 pounds of tomahawk prime rib cooked for 7 hours.
The wires allowed Celeste to raise and lower the meat depending on the heat of the fire.
Food stylist and friend Vanessa Dubiel stuffed red snapper with lemons, basil, tarragon and chives, and it went on the grill about an hour before dinner. The pièce de résistance was a 7-hour roasted 30 lb prime rib roast from their friend Matt Moore, owner of Chicago Cut Steakhouse. Everything except the rice that accompanied the chickens and a fresh salad were cooked over the fire. “I wanted to see if we could do this very primitive style of cooking and was excited about the interaction with the food,” said Celeste.
Prop stylist Ricki Hill worked with the couple to set a perfect aesthetic for the day. Going for a vintage modern look, Ricki set a table for 30 people on the couple’s lake house lawn. Royal blue and teal floral plates were accented with green glasses, gold flatware and burlap tablecloth. The weather was a perfectly crisp, sunny fall day and the table glistened as the sun moved from east to west.
Guests arrived in fall attire to the smell of grilling wafting through the air and the sound of champagne bottles popping. Kids ran in the yard, only taking breaks to eat ripe raspberries off the bushes. The adults noshed on homemade focaccia and cheese with fresh figs and hot honey. Everyone was mesmerized as the food was pulled off and out of the fire. In true asado style, the grilled proteins and vegetables were accompanied by a crisp salad and plenty of delicious red wine.
As the sun set, and laughter filled the air, the group sat down to enjoy the fruits of Stephen and Celeste’s vision - toasting to the fact that they had watched that Francis Mallmann episode so many years ago!
bottom of page