Grillmasters, You Need to See These Tremendous, Florida-Made, Argentine-Style Grills
Or just grab a bite at the weekly Leña Asado dining series — your call
After suffering family losses in 2010, Nick and Christie Carrera were looking for a way to connect with loved ones. Nick was reminded of the outdoor barbecues his Argentine father hosted, at what’s known as an asado. “We were trying to find a way to get back to that idea of having that reset and that sort of recalibration at the end of the week to spend time with family,” he says.
The couple looked for a grill that would suit their needs but came up short, instead designing their own.
“The first one we built was designed specifically to fit on the back of our Jeep Wrangler, so that we could take to the beach — we made lots of fun friends on the beach with that grill,” says Christie.
As Nick started building asado setups for friends, the requests started to pour in.
“It just grew from there in popularity. One of the local chefs actually followed him down the road because he saw the grill strapped on the back of the Jeep and basically drove ’til Nick pulled over,” Christie recalls. “He got out and said, ‘Who are you? What’s going on? Are you in St. Augustine? We need to talk.’ We knew that there was a positive response.”
The chef community of St. Augustine quickly became fans of the grills from the newly formed Urban Asado company. The grills are made in St. Augustine and come in a variety of styles: freestanding grills, drop-in grills, fireplace grills, and of course, custom grills to suit your set-up. All feature angled grill surfaces with V-shaped grates, crafted from American stainless steel. The grilling possibilities are essentially endless.
Now the Carreras just had to show people how to use them.
“You really can’t describe these grills. You have to really experience it for yourself. So we started with a monthly Sunday Asado, and we invited chefs from all over St. Augustine and Jacksonville,” Christie says. “We’d bring four or five chefs in. There was no menu. You had no idea what you were eating, because we didn’t want the chefs to have any pressure, so they could cook whatever they wanted.”
What started as the Sunday asados developed into Leña Asado, a special outdoor dining series held on Friday and Saturday nights, named for the burnt firewood that is such an integral part of the cooking style. At the Carreras’ spot near the shrimp boats in St. Augustine’s harbor, the guest chefs prepare meals using various grilling methods; past asados have included a South African-style braai, grilled Polish sausages and Peruvian fish in banana leaves.
The location has been ideal for outdoor dining during the pandemic, but also connects chefs with diners, who can see them hard at work.
“I think people think they have an assumption of what they think this little Southern fishing town would be,” Christie says. “I think the melting pot of cultures and how diverse our culinary scene is has made it more interesting and more fun.”
Of course, few things are more fun than grilling in your own backyard — and if you want to experience the asado for yourself, you can also recreate it at home by purchasing a grill for yourself. “About 85% of our business is to homeowners that want that sort of grilling lifestyle,” she says. “If you like it, you love it.”
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