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Fire-Resistant Aprons Required: Miller's Guild Roasts Meat on a Blazing Infierno

[Photos: Suzi Pratt/Ronald Holden]

The centerpiece of Miller's Guild in the Hotel Max is a 9-foot, custom-built grill called the "Infierno." It comes from a company in Michigan named Grillworks that was founded 30 years ago by Charles Eisendrath, a former foreign correspondent for Time Magazine. Inspired by the open-fire cooking techniques of Argentina, Eisendrath made a series of prototype stainless steel grills that caught the attention of the national food press; his son, Ben, runs the company today.

James Beard award-winning chef Jason Wilson has had his fingerprints as a flavor-meister on restaurants all over town: The Local Vine, Urban Enoteca, Fonté Café to name but a few. And now he's partnering with leading Portland restaurateur Kurt Huffman at Miller's Guild.

Wilson's own place on the eastern slope of Capitol Hill, Crush, is evolving from neighborhood bistro to prestigious fine-dining destination. Eater caught up with him downtown as he inspected the daily cleaning of the Infierno at Miller's Guild, a flaming grill so hot that cooks are required to wear fire-resistant aprons.

Can I ask how much it costs?
Um, about as much as a BMW. Instead of a new BMW, I'm driving a 15-year-old car, but this is way more fun.

Who else has these?
They're pretty popular with people who want something unique for their home kitchens, but this is only the third Infierno in commercial use. Dan Barber bought the first one for his restaurant at Blue Hill, Tom Colicchio has the second one in Las Vegas. This is the third one. It was delivered last October before the restaurant build-out was finished, so we parked it up in the garage for a few weeks of test runs.

It's nine feet across and has a central fire station, as it's called, that puts out 1,100 degrees. It feeds the two side grills that you can adjust for height, and the hearth baking platform. The hood is constantly cooled by water.

What sort of fuel do you use?
We use wood, of course, mesquite and pecan. But charcoal, too. The briquets are charcoal tubes that we get from Thailand, they burn smokeless and really, really hot.

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What all can you cook on this?
It has no problems with diversity. Rib-eyes, crispy beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, goat, and, of course, everything pork. We'll do a whole pig butchery and then set the cuts onto the Infierno. Braised ribs, fish, pork belly.

What's your favorite cut to cook on this, personally?
The bone-in rib-eye.

Was there anything that surprised you about this equipment?
Its flexibility, I think. The baskets on the sides are adjustable, so we can do slow-roasting on the top, even braising pork bellies. The boxes hold three fires, so we can roast on the coals or in cast iron. Fish in the middle. At lunch we only heat one side but we still turn out an entire service in 25 to 30 minutes.

Tell me about the "motoroli."
We use these grill channels to collect the drippings. We call them "motoroli." We add thyme or rosemary for flavor, and we strain the drippings for aioli. It's great on burgers, great umami.

Any plans to share for the future?
We're looking at Bellevue. With an even bigger Infierno, potentially.
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