Synonymous with the art of the grill, Boston chef Chris Schlesinger, along with his coauthor and grilling partner John “Doc” Willoughby, have laid down the rules of the barbecue game (among other adventures) in ten cookbooks, among them the James Beard–award winning The Thrill of the Grill (1990), Let the Flames Begin (2010), and the The Big Flavor Grill (Ten Speed Press, 2014).
Schlesinger had his first taste of barbecue growing up in Virginia, where, he quips, he “ate pork three times a day.” He left college for the restaurant kitchen, working his way up the line and then going the formal route with a degree in 1997 from the Culinary Institute of America. As wild about surfing and traveling as he was about cooking in those days, he explored local ingredients everywhere he went and became enamored of all that a live fire can do for food.
In 1986, Schlesinger opened a place of his own, the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, which the New York Times called “a pioneer in a movement that is bringing the Boston restaurant scene to life.” Jake & Earl’s Dixie Barbecue followed in 1989, and the Back Eddy in 1999, a Westport, Massachusetts, waterfront joint that put local seafood front and center. These days, Schlesinger is out of the restaurant business (he sold the East Coast Grill in 2012), devoting himself to writing and continuing the great experiments with food and fire—because, after all these years, he hasn’t lost the thrill of the grill.
As a Westport, Massachusetts, resident, Chris can get a permit to clam in these waters. He must observe catch limits, though, and each clam he catches must be at least 2 inches across. But, as Chris explains, clams larger than 3 inches are tough, so today’s goal is to find those in between. “Other people call clams this size ‘littlenecks,’ but here, we call all hard-shell clams ‘quahogs’ [pronounced ko-hog],” Chris says. “Instead of ‘clamming,’ we say ‘quahogging.’ Every quahogger has their spot.”