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Tom Cail and his son, Jaxon, man their grills. Courtesy photo.
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, May. 1, 2013 4 years ago

The thrill of the grill


There is something almost primal about putting food to fire. And with the most frantic part of the year behind us, there is more time to do it these days. So, we sought out a cross section of grilling enthusiasts and asked them to share their treats, tales and tips. Our grillers range in age from 3 to the 70s, and their specialties include ribs, chicken, chicken wings and salmon.

Phil Mancini
Chicken again?
Phil Mancini, co-proprietor of Michael’s On East, says he used to cook chicken on the grill so often that when his nieces visited, they would ask, “Are we having barbecued chicken again?”

It’s not the only thing he grills, though — it’s just his favorite. Mancini’s method is to marinate the quarters in sauce (he uses Sweet Baby Ray’s) for about an hour, then cook them over a low fire with the lid down. “I just have a knack of bringing it up slowly for 45 minutes and basting every five or 10 minutes so it caramelizes beautifully,” he says.

Phil loves grilling — it’s that simple. He cites a fond memory of growing up in North Providence, R.I. “As soon as it warmed up, everybody in my little Italian neighborhood was always out there every night,” he says.

He has done the cooking for the New College Clambake and cooked burgers for hundreds of people at Van Wezel’s Friday Fests, and he says if he had the time he would be doing “one of those barbecue teams.”

These days, Phil does his grilling at home almost every night and mostly on an 8-foot-long Big John cooker. His wife, Kim, preps and marinates; Phil cooks — pork tenderloin, swordfish, a lot of shrimp, Maine lobster and, yes, chicken. He and Kim shop together at Fresh Market on Sundays, and Phil says, “Everything I buy is to grill. If it’s raining, if it’s freezing, I’m grilling.”

In addition to the Big John, Phil has a charcoal grill in which he uses mesquite wood and two 5-foot “tow behinds” — the type barbecue vendors use. His favorite tools are a fish rack and a vegetable rack (the kind that looks like a screen).

Tom Cail
Like father, like son
Meet Jaxon Cail, age 3, and already the master of his own Little Tykes barbecue. When his father, Tom, heads outside, Jaxon grabs his tongs and cooks right alongside him, warning dad to be careful because the grill is hot. It runs in the family; Jaxon’s dad recalls his father, Tom Cail Jr. (the dentist), “probably grilled steaks for dinner four nights a week.”

Tom Cail III, an agent with RE/MAX Alliance, cooks “a little bit of everything, two or three times a week on average.” A favorite is mojo chicken wings. He soaks the wings for a good four hours in Goya mojo marinade then cooks them for about 15 minutes on medium heat, basting continually.

At home, Cail cooks on a “little old Brinkmann gas grill.” He also has a small portable that goes with the family on their Friday late afternoon boat trips to south Lido beach. For both, Tom says he rarely uses a spatula, “just real long tongs.”

His advice: “A lot of people grill with the lid open. Close it to keep the food juicier and cook it faster.”

Steve Wilberding
Grilling here, there and everywhere
Over the course of his career as an investment banker, Steve Wilberding, now retired, worked on every continent except Antarctica. He lived in Japan, Saudi Arabia, England and India — and grilled almost everywhere.

These days, Steve grills at home on Casey Key. His favorite is a cedar-planked salmon that he has made a dozen times and about which he says, “Cooking on the cedar plank gives it a deep, smoky kind of taste, and the ginger gives it a real bite.”

Check out the recipe he uses online at

Steve uses a Weber gas grill for the salmon; he is also the owner of a teppanyaki grill with a flat steel plate. His favorite tool is a big spatula that he bought at American Grill and Hearth, which has locations on Clark Road, in Sarasota, and on Laurel Road East, in Nokomis.

Steve’s observation about cooking is that, for a lot of people, the first time they make a recipe is the best they ever make it because they actually follow the instructions or, as he puts it, “When all else fails, follow the directions.”

Knickole Barger
Ribs to die for
A young working mom, Knickole Barger started grilling “when I was a kid.” Her Ducane gas grill sits on the terrace just outside her home, but the ribs that have won her a couple of awards are pre-cooked inside before they hit the fire. She parboils them for a couple of hours in a mixture of Guinness and pineapple juice. Then, she grills them “until the sauce caramelizes and sticks to the meat — usually about 10 minutes.”
If you don’t have the patience to perform her method yourself, you can enjoy a close approximation at her restaurant, Knick’s Tavern, in Southside Village.
Knickole’s favorite tool is an “amazing pair of tongs” that she purchased from a commercial restaurant supply company. And her advice to rib grillers is: “parboil. Otherwise they will be too crispy on the outside and not cooked enough inside. Take your time, take your time.”

Knickole Barger’s “To Die For” barbecued spareribs
For the sauce:
Generic barbecue sauce of your choice as the base 
Dash of liquid smoke
Brown sugar
Smoked chipotle peppers (tread with caution)
Dash of Tabasco
Brown mustard of your choosing
Add the above ingredients to your base sauce, to taste.
Mix together; let rest.

For the baby backs:
• Guinness
• Pineapple juice

Before I do anything, I cut the slabs in thirds. This makes it easier to serve when they are coming off the grill. It seems that it is a perfect portion for a backyard party with a crowd. They are so good, I have a hard enough time keeping them on the actual grill. So, the less you have to do after they are finished cooking, the better. Keep those sticky fingers at bay.
Cut raw baby back slabs in thirds. Place pieces in a large stockpot. Arrange as best you can; you will want the liquid to completely cover your ribs.
Usually, a four-pack of Guinness is enough for four slabs of ribs. 
Add beer and pineapple juice to the pot, ensuring that the meat is completely submerged.
Turn heat on high; bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium; and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
Cover and place the heat on the lowest possible setting.
Let those “babys” hang out for two to three hours.  If you can’t get them on the grill right after, you can refrigerate overnight.
Grilling time ...
Place ribs on grill over medium heat and sauce them up, turning occasionally until the sauce caramelizes and sticks to the meat (usually 10 minutes). Grill until desired charring is accomplished and serve.
If you have an older grill or have sticking issues, use a high-heat gill spray to ensure you don’t loose any yummy meat!

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