Grill Master Spotlight: Interview with the Grill Girl
While many people’s passion for grilling runs deep, not every griller can turn up the heat on that passion and turn it into a career, let alone a successful brand.
Robyn Lindars, a.k.a. Grill Girl, describes herself as “the girl next door who likes to host dinner parties and drink lots of wine.” Make no mistake, if you’re ever lucky enough to get an invite to one of her dinner parties, you’re in for one of the most delicious, unique barbecue meals of your life.
You may recognize Lindars’ face from your last trip to the grocery store. Lindars’ latest project, Grill Girl Magazine, hit newsstands around the country back in June. Lindars is no stranger to having her published work on store shelves. She also released a cookbook, available on Amazon, with 100 healthy recipes you can make in an electric smoker.
We had the chance to catch up with Lindars to hear about how she got her start in grilling, how Grill Girl was born (and raised), and all about why introducing women to grilling is a priority for her and her brand.
On grilling journeys...
What is your grilling origin story?
I'm from the South, and I've always liked to cook. When I first started dating my now husband, I was just so excited to have someone to cook for. One night, I went to use his grill, I think he was out of town, and I singed my eyebrows off. He had this crappy old charbroil and the gas starter wasn’t working anymore. So I pretty much singed my eyebrows off and I was like, that was so dumb, I'm going to get him a new grill. And I did. I got him a top of the line Weber Genesis and the rest was history.
Out of practicality, I wanted to get my money's worth and so I was using the grill and then I really just fell in love with grilling.
I was like, why are more women not grilling? Why is this so segregated still where the guy is the one that does the grilling and the woman is inside making the side dishes? Why can't we have the fun outside on the grill?
Right around that time I had started a blog because I have a journalism degree. It was an opportunity for me to document recipes that I like and things like that. That's really when it morphed into Grill Girl.
Around the same time I decided, why don't I take this opportunity to share with other females how much fun grilling can be? It's less dishes, it gives you an opportunity to be outside, it's a great way to add flavor without adding a lot of fat or extra calories.
I started doing these women’s grilling clinics and then, with my blog, I started to get noticed just because there really weren't a lot of chics out there grilling. When you did see a woman grilling, a lot of the time it was a pitmaster type, while I'm really more your girl next door who likes to host dinner parties and drink lots of wine... and who just enjoys cooking. So I really just wanted to share how much fun it can be and that it's a great way to cook, entertain, and show that anyone can do it.
From there, I started getting some gigs with my blog, and probably one of the first gigs I got was McCormick's back in the day. Of course, this was like, before Instagram even existed, so for bloggers that was kind of a thing. Then it just morphed and I started doing a lot more recipe development for companies, videos, and things like that with Kingsford, Walmart, and Smithfield.
Then, through the journey, my dad and I started competing on a team at Memphis in May, which is like the Superbowl of Swine, if you will. We've had a lot of fun with that, but really, grilling has just opened up a lot of opportunities for me just because I was pushing the envelope on something that's still kind of gender specific, even though it shouldn't be in a time where there really are no gender roles anymore.
In that time since I started the blog in 2008, I've written a cookbook, which was actually about electric smoking believe it or not. Before pellet smoking, electric smoking was a way a lot of people were introduced to the idea of pushing the “easy” button on smoking food. My book really focused on the healthier aspect, like junk free and no “weird” ingredients kind of stuff.
This year was a pretty blockbuster year for me because I launched a magazine and then launched a barbecue rub. So, it's been busy over here!
On building a grilling community...
How has the experience with Grill Girl Magazine been?
I'm still waiting to get all the statistics back, but I will say that the publishing industry has been really different for me. My whole brand has been built digitally. It's all been online and print is a totally different world.
It just went off newsstands less than a month ago, so I still don't have any data, but the feedback I've gotten so far from everyone is that they really enjoyed the magazine, that they learned a lot, and that they thought it was really well done.
I was really trying to elevate grilling, introduce new concepts, and also simplify grilling so people don't think it's hard. I'm hoping that it can educate and inspire anyone, no matter what their grilling level is.
What’s your favorite part about having a passionate online grilling community?
I'm really blessed to have met a lot of other grilling bloggers early on and to have kind of like a posse, if you will. What's great is that, as my site has grown and time has gone on, I still maintain relationships with a lot of my grilling family. I call them my family because we've been through stuff together and we still share information.
Where my strongest family is, or where I get the most feedback, would be Instagram. That's definitely where I'm most active. It's been great because I can use my family of barbecuers and grillers as real time research.
When I was writing my magazine... because I pretty much published the whole magazine front to back. All the recipes are mine. I was the food stylist and the photographer. The photographer and I were in the backyard doing all this stuff. It's like the magazine that I birthed… I birthed a magazine baby, just like when you write a cookbook.
What was great is that I could have my audience and ask them things like, “what gas griller do you recommend?” And I was able to get a pulse on things. It forms kind of a focus group, fan club, and real time market research—which is really awesome.
There's a lot to be said about the ability to create community. I always get frustrated, because there's only so much I can do as one person. Even though I have a team of people that helped me with things, there are some things that you just can't pass off. I think that's the tough part. If you're running a business that’s trying to scale and do more things, but also maintain authenticity and that true voice, sometimes the knowledge isn't transferred over.
On being a woman in the grilling industry...
What has your experience been like as a woman in a male-dominated field?
People are usually surprised to see me being the Grill Master, especially when they meet me in person and they realize I'm only 5’1”. But I 'd actually say I think the guys have been a lot more welcoming into the world of grilling and barbecue than the females have been for the most part, or at least the other females who are into grilling because they feel like it's almost a territorial or competitive thing.
What's great is that you're seeing so many more women grilling these days and so I think the stereotype is starting to change—at least maybe for me because I live and breathe in the grilling world. I think it's just at least becoming more common than it used to be, which is a great thing.
One of the reasons I wanted to do the magazine was because I felt like, if someone's following me on Instagram, or has found a recipe on my website, well, chances are, they already know how to grill because they were searching for a grilling recipe or they appreciate grilling food porn type stuff, and that's why they would follow me on Instagram. But if someone is shopping at the grocery store and they see me on the front of the magazine about grilling, it just gives the opportunity, when you see a little pipsqueak like me behind the grill, it gives the opportunity to reframe the concept of what really is and can be.
So I felt like it was a really great opportunity to reach new people that just hadn't even thought about, “Hey, I can grill and not just on the major holidays of the year.” Grilling is a 365 type endeavor. It's really a lifestyle. I get that it gets cold in certain places, and it may not be approachable for everyone, but it's still a lifestyle. If you love to grill, you love to grill. So that's how I was trying to change the narrative around grilling. As I do more magazines, hopefully it will continue to change that perception.
Why is it important for you to bring women into the grilling community?
I've been disappointed in a lot of the big brands out there because, even though they know that the demographic is changing for grilling, I don't feel any of them have really had the balls to put a woman on their marketing and advertising. You see them hanging out around the grill, but here's an exercise: see if you can find any marketing or advertising that is actually showing a woman behind the grill. You'll be challenged to find it because people still aren't doing it.
I think it's been very much a missed opportunity. I just hope that more brands can embrace the opportunity that stands behind this whole other side of the spectrum. Like, if women are 50% of the population, and you've only been marketing to men for the past 50 years and you feel like that market is saturated, well, duh! Go after the other market! That’s what I hope to see.
I hope to be a part of that change. I have a lot of goals to advance the industry to be more female-friendly, even down to making grilling accessories that might be more cute. Or, I'd say kitchen-friendly, right? Some of the accessories you see for grilling are so awful and ugly, really oversized. I don't know anyone who would want something that big or awkward to use.
There's so much opportunity in the grilling market and it's really up to those who decide to embrace it. Hopefully I can be a catalyst in sharing the knowledge I've learned because, if anything, just the women's grilling clinics I was doing served as great market research in understanding what challenges there are for women to grill.
I think there's a lot of opportunity in the market for those who wish to capitalize on it.
So can we expect some cute grilling tools in Grill Girl’s future?
Yes! There's a lot going on here, and I'm trying to lay the foundation right now; but in my future, I definitely want to branch out in getting my name and label out there and helping to make things cuter for grilling. Just because it's for grilling doesn't mean it needs to be ugly and oversized and always black.
I love design. I love putting things together, so I hope that I could share some of that side of me and bring something to the industry that is design-friendly and useful from a functional standpoint as well. If I ever have to bring something into my kitchen, it needs to look cute when it's hanging out on the counter.
On her advice for grillers...
What’s one recipe you think all charcoal grillers should try?
I have this recipe for smoked gazpacho that just rocks my world. It's more work than just making gazpacho because you grill all the ingredients first to add a layer of smoke and char. It’s like when you get a fire roasted salsa; how much better, at least in my opinion, is it when you add that layer of smoke to it? It just adds depth. That's how smoked gazpacho is. It’s about taking something so fresh and simple in its ingredients, but transforming them on the grill to make it anything but basic.
I just love to experiment with flavors, like adding smoke flavor to dishes you might not expect. I also have a recipe I think is really fun. It was inspired by Francis Mallmann who's a pretty famous Argentinian/Patagonian-style chef, where you do things like roast an entire pumpkin in your grill.
People might limit themselves to things like pork butts, ribs, and brisket, and that stuff is so tasty; but, how fun is it to put a small pumpkin in and roast it? And then crack it open, toss it with some arugula and goat cheese and turn it into a roasted pumpkin salad. That's something that most people will probably never think about, but it's totally different. It’s really fun and different, especially if you're entertaining. People are going to be like, “What? What did she just pull out of her smoker?”
What’s your biggest piece of advice for a new griller?
Don't be afraid to try new things. When people get into grilling or smoking, especially smoking, they tend to do a lot of the same stuff over and over again.
I get it, ribs are exciting. Pork butt can be exciting the first time you grill it too, but there's so much more to be explored in the world of grilling and barbecue than just meats.
One thing I did in my cookbook was show people how to smoke salt, pepper, and spices so that even if you're not grilling, you can layer that smoke flavor on. Things like grilled romaine are the easiest things you can make on the grill and yet people are still so surprised that you can throw basically a head of lettuce on the grill and it totally transforms that ingredient. It kind of sweetens the romaine and it’s just amazing. When you do it, people think you're really smart and clever, but it's so easy.
So, my advice to people when you do get into grilling and smoking, is to just remember that the sky's the limit and anything you can cook in your kitchen you can cook on the grill. Just because you see people on your Instagram feed doing ribs, pork butt, and brisket all day long and six ways till Sunday… there’s a really big grilling universe and you don't have to limit yourself to those kinds of things.
A Kick Ash Grilling Story
Robyn Lindars’ story is a great example of how one spark of a grill can change your life forever. While she’s not your typical pit master, Lindars’ passion and dedication for changing the grill game is an inspiration for any person looking to break into the grilling industry.
If you didn’t get your hands on a copy of the first issue of Grill Girl Magazine, don’t fret, you can still order a copy online. While you’re at it, make sure to follow Lindars on Instagram to keep up to date on all future issues of the magazine and get regular grilling content that is sure to help you up your game.