A South African grill makes its way to the Upstate

Bacon Bros. first restaurant in Upstate to use KUDU braai

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Top Chef Season 6 cheftestant Kevin Gillespie and friend of Bacon Bros. chef Anthony Gray has partnered with KUDU Safari Braai | photo provided

Some call it the African TV, but this little wonder has nothing to do with digital images being transmitted from the earth to the sky and back again. And now it’s coming to Greenville. The name of this decidedly low-tech wonder: the braai (rhymes with “dry”). And it’s a wood-fired charcoal grill.

Much like television, the braai is designed to bring people together for community and conversation. Families and friends stand around the lid-free braai and watch the embers and flames while their food is cooking.

“It’s about getting your kids to put down their iPads and spend 45 minutes outside,” says Stebin Horne, owner of KUDU Safari Braai of Macon, Ga. “There’s nothing more attractive than fire and food. It’s in our DNA.”

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The term “braai” can also be used as a verb, or to indicate the type of gathering.

Horne has partnered with chef Anthony Gray of Bacon Bros. Public House in Greenville to bring the KUDU braai to Greenville. (Kudu is an African antelope.)

Gray, now a designated “braaimaster” after being trained on the KUDU, will be using the braai at his Greenville location Bacon Bros. and his new Bacon Bros. Texas offshoot; he’ll also use it to host special events locally and has plans to showcase several braai at Euphoria food and wine festival in September.

“We love to celebrate around food and fire,” Gray says. “Food brings people together.”

Currently, the only retail location in the Upstate at which to purchase the KUDU Safari Braai is Ace Hardware Landscape Supply, 620 N. Pleasantburg Drive, for $699, but you can also buy it online at the official KUDU site.

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Still wonder what the big deal is?

In South Africa, Sept. 24 is National Braai Day. The entire country takes off work to cook over open flame all day.

“In a country where 11 different languages are spoken, [braai] is the only word recognized in all 11 languages,” Horne says. “It’s a way to bring people together around food and fire.”

After Horne lived with his wife on her family’s South African farm for several years, and experienced the braai culture, he knew he needed to bring it back to the United States.

“I wanted to bring it in to allow people to put aside their differences,” he says.

The biggest differences between the South African braai and the typical grill used in the U.S. are that the braai sits lower to the ground and has no lid, so everything is visible.

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Traditionally, individuals using a braai burn any kind of coal or wood available. Horne recommends using 80 percent coal and 20 percent wood for flavor. KUDU sells a specific African wood — camel thorn – some of which comes from his in-laws’ farm on the Indian Ocean. Horne says a few U.S. chefs recently described the camel thorn after burning it for the first time as smelling like their grandfathers’ pipe. It is available wherever KUDU braais are sold, but not online.

“It’s a very firm wood that burns slow — it gets really hot at a slower temperature,” Gray says. “It’s like mesquite but not as harsh. It’s nutty and sweet and smells like no other wood.”

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Gray says the KUDU can smoke chicken, grill pork belly pastrami, roast vegetables, and fry eggs, thanks to multiple attachments and its patented system of raising and lowering the cooking surface over the heat source.

Because the braai is central to any gathering, it keeps the grill master at cookouts from being relegated to a corner, Horne says.

The partnership between Horne and Gray was initiated by Gray’s friend — “Top Chef” Season 6 finalist Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta — who had stumbled upon KUDU and became fast friends with Horne after inviting himself to Horne’s house for dinner to see the KUDU work its magic.

For that no-pressure dinner, Horne cooked “beef and braai breads,” typically a large cut of beef and sandwiches with cheese, tomato, onions, and chutney.

Having previously cooked on an immoveable, cast-iron braai, Gillespie was sold on the KUDU because it was more versatile and moveable.

Through a fellowship with Mercer University and a highly successful Kickstarter campaign in the fall of 2016 with Gillespie’s endorsement, KUDU was born.

Coincidentally, Horne and Gray are both about the same age and from Macon, Ga., but never met when they lived there. Gillespie introduced the two.

“I fell in love with it,” Gray says about when he first cooked on the KUDU. “The whole premise is what we’ve been doing for years — helping people gather around good food.”

Visit kudugrills.com for more information.

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