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Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX)

June 2, 2004

Grill of your dreams
It's not just a grate on legs anymore. No, the outdoor kitchen is a home resort, complete with wet bar, flat-screen TV and waterfall.

AMY CULBERTSON
Star-Telegram Food Editor

The backyard barbecue has come a long way, baby.

They're calling it the "home resort' these days, and what it means is that the trophy kitchen is moving outside.

That top-of-the-line grill in today's upscale back yard is likely to be equipped with an infrared rotisserie and smoker box; housed in a custom-made island with attached bar; surrounded with granite or stainless-steel countertops; and flanked with warming drawers, sink and refrigerator or built-in beer tap, and side burners powerful enough to fire up a wok.

Kitchen and patio designers and suppliers agree that in the past five years the outdoor-cooking market has exploded, becoming the fastest-growing segment of the kitchen biz.

"A significantly bigger percentage of dollars is being spent on outdoor living centers," says Clay Bulmer, Carrollton-based regional territory manager for Milestone Distributors, which handles high-end appliances such as Viking. "Outdoor cooking is an over $2.5 billion industry."

With names such as Viking, Dacor, DCS, Wolf, Lynx, GE Monogram, Cal Flame and Barbeques Galore's Grand Turbo line showing up on posh patios, "a lot of your high-end quality components, people are now moving them outdoors," says Bobby Coulson, a manager at Barbeques Galore in Grapevine.

"People are putting the money in at their homes instead of spending the money on a vacation," observes Lance Jones of Sun-Time Pool, Spa & Patio in north Arlington. Milestone's Mike Barnes agrees: "This is a natural place to build themselves an everyday vacation."

And one item that's big in California -- the mother lode of outdoor-kitchen trends -- is just beginning to show up here: the wood-fired pizza oven. These ovens haven't changed much since the days of Pompeii, and they're common in Italian gardens for baking breads and pizzas as well as slow-cooked dishes, according to James Bairey, whose California-based Forno Bravo company (www.fornobravo.com) imports them from Italy.

In Rowlett, Mike and Amy Morris believe they're among the first in the area to latch onto this trend. The veteran do-it-yourselfers got the bug after watching an HGTV program on outdoor kitchens, "and it looked like that would be something we could do."

The pizza oven they're having shipped to them by Forno Bravo (some assembly required) is the first large piece they purchased for the outdoor kitchen they're designing and installing, mostly with their own hands.

When it's finished -- in about a month, they hope -- their outdoor kitchen will have not only the Italian wood oven but also a drop-in stainless-steel smoker/cooker and two gas burners on the "hot" side and a bar with sink, refrigerator and icemaker on the "cold" side.

"When we entertain," says Amy Morris, "if we're grilling something outside, I'm inside in the kitchen doing everything else, and I'm missing out until the party's winding down.

"This way, I'll get to participate this year."

"It'll be a lot of fun having everybody make their own pizzas and watch them cook," adds Mike.

"You can even cook a turkey in these," Amy says of the Italian oven. "I might try that this Thanksgiving."