As I'd imagined them, cooking classes were rife with cooking snobs. People whose cabinets are filled with infused olive oils. People who carry Food Network tote bags. People who give me a rash the size of a cast-iron frying pan. While we waited for the grill master to arrive, I worked the classroom, hunting for smugness.
But there was none to be found. Most of my "boot camp" mates would definitely not call themselves foodies. "Nope," said one, an older West Virginia native with a slight drawl. "If it were Barbecue Boot Camp at the Holiday Inn, my wife and I wouldn't be there. We love the Greenbrier, and mixing a cooking class with some golf and swimming is just right."
At precisely 9 a.m., Raichlen walked in and blew on a Marine Corps drill sergeant's whistle (harder than anyone should at 9 a.m.). "Are you ready to barbecue?" His yell was imbued with the same sunshiny, sadistic pleasure he probably felt when informing his wife that they were going to Alaska for two weeks to learn the secrets of salmon-grilling (they actually did). The man was clearly ecstatic about grilling before noon.
The class moved outside, where an artillery of grills was arranged in a semicircle: humble backyard hibachis, Komodo cookers, Holland Legacys, TEC Sterlings, and upright barrel smokers. Watching Raichlen jump from one piece of hardware to the next and explain its particular benefits, I couldn't help fixating on how big this man's garage must be.
"What's the difference between grilling and barbecuing?" he called out. I started to raise my hand, then realized that "Barbecuing after Labor Day is gauche" was probably the wrong answer. Raichlen explained: "Barbecuing is a slow process, using indirect heat. Grilling is always done fast and right over the heat source."