Chattanooga restaurateur Lawton Haygood developed an innovative wood-burning grill that attracted the interest of chefs. Hardwood Grill LLC is striving to place the grill in high-end restaurants across the nation.
Chattanooga, Tenn. – The first-of-its-kind wood-burning grill for restaurateurs has a new marketing arm and a new name. The Smokey Mountain Grill, which is a second-generation model of the woodburning grill that Chattanooga restaurateur Lawton Haygood created when he operated a mesquite-grilled seafood concept in Dallas, is now the signature product for Atlanta-based Hardwood Grill LLC, a company owned by Kevin Livingston.
Grilling is a practiced in restaurants and backyard barbeques across the United States, but it is a technique that was pioneered and perfected in Texas. So it is appropriate that a first-of-its-kind wood-burning grill for restaurants was developed by Haygood when he was operating a restaurant in Dallas.
Haygood, who now owns and operates the Boathouse Rotisserie &Raw Bar in Chattanooga and the Canyon Grill in nearby Lookout Mountain with his wife Karen, created the grill in the late 1970s at Turtle Cove.
“The traditional grill tends to burn hot in one spot and cool in another, which isn’t ideal when you’re cooking a high volume of orders,” Haygood explained. “I kept waiting for someone to come up with something, but nobody did, so I decided to invent my own grill.”
Haygood’s solution was to create a grill that operates on the principal of the convection oven. It produces even heat, which cooks food faster and more evenly, he said. The wood smoke intensifies the flavor of the food, Haygood added.
After designing the grill, Haygood was featured in Time Magazine, called a pioneer in mesquite grilling and received numerous calls from restaurateurs nationwide who asked him to make a grill for them. He soon found himself building and installing grills in restaurant chains like J. Alexander’s and Grady’s. Before selling his interest in the manufacturing company he and a partner formed, Haygood worked with some of the country’s most renowned chefs, including Wolfgang Puck.
The Smokey Mountain Grill, formerly called Tuff Grill, prepares the cuisine at Canyon Grill and the Boathouse. Haygood decided to turn over the sales and marketing reins of his grill to Livingston and focus on developing his newest restaurant, a blues and barbeque concept called Sugar’s, which will open in Chattanooga this fall. Haygood will remain a designer and consultant to the Smokey Mountain Grill.
Livingston plans to market the grill to high-end restaurants that like the flavor that the wood-burning grill produces. “Chefs are fine dining restaurants prefer to cook with gas, but for grilling meats they prefer a woodburning grill because of the flavor,” Livingston said.
Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans, Smoke Jack Blues and BBQ and Fatt Matt’s Blues and BBQ in Atlanta, and Haygood’s Canyon Grill and Boathouse are among the restaurants that use the Smokey Mountain Grill. Watermark Restaurant in Nashville is the company’s newest client.
“Since the grill is air cooled and does not depend on insulation, it is more durable,” Haygood explained. “And, since the heat is not reflected into the kitchen, restaurants save money on air conditioning, and the kitchen is a more comfortable work environment since it is not so hot.”