Chef Rob Rainford is quite a guy. With four seasons of License to Grill on Food Network Canada under his belt, he’s served up everything from lamb and trout to veal and oxtail.
After his appearance in June at the Devonshire Mall, I got to sit down with Rainford and have a chat about what it’s like to be revered by men as a god of the grill.
“I hate to burst anyone’s bubble but barbecuing is not my forte,” he explains. “I haphazardly fell into being the barbecue guy. I can talk and cook at the same time and I’m not the ugliest guy.”
Despite his modesty, nearly 200 eager fans came out to watch him work his magic and entice the audience with his wit, charm and sense of humour. Of course, the smell of grilled tenderloin wafting through the mall may have helped lure passers-by.
“Barbequing is something that I basically learned on the fly,” says Rainford. “I’ve done it before. I’ve done smoking, I’ve done grilling. I’ve done all those things. But I never really focused my attention on it until I started the show.”
Throwing meat on a grill isn’t Rainford’s only talent. He is an honest to goodness, licensed chef and his ability to teach and break it down to the basics has led him to develop the Rainford Method.
“The Rainford Method is basically the next incarnation of what I am,” he explains. “It’s an extension of me showing people what would be considered a complicated recipe and making it doable for most people.”
His positive attitude and ability to captivate an audience certainly gives Rainford an edge.
“I want to pass on what I know to people,” says Rainford. “I want to demystify food. I have a piece of paper in my wallet that says I’m a cook and that I can do what I do. But what good is it going to do if you have all this information and no one else knows what to do with it. Let me show you how to do it from A to Z. Any issues that come up we’ll deal with them. In a live format, this is my format. I’m not shy.”
One thing that should be said up front about Chef Rainford’s recipes is they ain’t fast food! His ingredients are marinated, simmered, smoked and stewed for hours or even days. But don’t let that deter you from trying them out. With recipes like Smoked Ribs with Espresso BBQ Sauce and Portobello Cheeseburgers, they are definitely worth the wait and you’ll be glad you did!
“The books are recipes from the show. We couldn’t’ squeeze all the recipes in the first book so this is just a continuation of that. There’s no distinction between what I do with my family and what I do on the show. These are recipes of what I would have done at home.”
And like any good chef, Rainford always recommends using nature’s best.
“I believe in using seasonal and the freshest that I possibly can and my philosophy is that I stay out of the way of food.”
A graduate of George Brown culinary program in Toronto, Rainford continues to instruct and inspire by teaching culinary classes at the college.
“I teach at George Brown every Monday night,” says Rainford. “That is my profession, I teach. It’s a passion of mine.”
Being the youngest of five kids (he has a twin brother!), Rainford was not lacking in mentors within his own family.
“My older brother is my catalyst for cooking,” he explains. “He took over the reins at an early age, about 14 or 15, to cook at our house and he inspired me to cook. Just seeing a guy do it, really impressed me. I saw my mother, grandmother and aunt do it for years, and it didn’t register. Then I saw a guy do it and I thought ‘wow a guy can actually cook’.”
So what types of gadgets does a guy like Rob Rainford recommend keeping in your own home BBQ kit?
“Right now, because people are so phobic to so many things, get a thermometer,” he suggests. “They got the remote ones where you plug it in walk away and it will beep and tell you when the internal temperature gets to what you’re looking for. So if I want a medium rare steak, the internal temperature should be less than 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes the guesswork out.”
Currently, Rainford is working on expanding his image and his brand by traveling through the U.S. Although he is recognized wherever he goes in Canada, the elusive U.S market is his next target.
“In the States I’m on the Discovery Home channel, which is very specialty niche oriented station,” explains Rainford. “Their total viewership is 15-20 million. 195 million get the (U.S. version) Food Network. I’m still recognized when I go through but to increase my profile I’m going to have to strengthen my brand and that’s what I’m in the process of doing now with the Rainford Method.”
You can catch Chef Rainford on the FoodNetwork Canada on License to Grill or head over to the local book store to pick up Grilled to Perfection and More Grilled to Perfection, filled with recipes and how to tips and tricks from the show. Grill on!