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Macon Native Develops a New Way to Grill… or Braai

Braai (pronounced - bry) noun 1. a meal cooked over an open fire outdoors. 2. a party at which food is prepared in this fashion. 3. an appliance on which food can be grilled over an open flame outdoors. [origin - Afrikaans]

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header-logo-definition-3Stebin Horne is a man on a mission, and that mission is, in its purest form, helping people slow down and enjoy their lives a bit more. Horne’s savvy lies in connecting people with products that will help them move away from the dronelike adult routine of work-eat-sleep-repeat and into a lifestyle that prioritizes togetherness, fun, fellowship, and even adventure. The Macon native and entrepreneur is already involved in one business, Classic Overland, in which he brings meticulously restored Land Rover Defenders over from South Africa for customers who want the sense of adventure and freedom an automobile like that can bring; his newest invention, the KUDU Safari Braai, a wood-burning grill, griddle, and fire pit with interchangeable accessories, is another South African-inspired venture that’s just won him a Mercer Innovation Center fellowship and could be the start of something big here in Middle Georgia.

Cajun Sea Bass on the KUDU Safari Braai salt block with sauted okra and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto with havarti cheese. Learn more at www.kudugrills.com
Cajun Sea Bass on the KUDU Safari Braai salt block with sauted okra and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto with havarti cheese. Learn more at www.kudugrills.com

Horne got the idea for the grill while living in South Africa with his wife, who is from there. “When we’d go to parks or over to people’s homes, I noticed everybody grilled over an open fire,” Horne says. “They had this running joke that, if you didn’t do that, the lions would eat you. If you were over there with a Weber or a Big Green Egg, consider yourself a dead man. They’d raise the grilling level based on how hot the fire was; it was such a neat idea, and I began to see how it related very much to the way people like to grill and barbeque in America. We’re both grill-loving nations.”

Indeed, grilling is so important to South Africans that they’ve named September 24 National Braai Day; the day is set aside as one for all citizens, regardless of race, language, or religion, to unite in one aspect of their common heritage – the fires and feasts associated with the braai. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the anointed patron of National Braai Day, stated that braai “is one thing that can unite us, irrespective of all the things that are trying to tear us apart.”

This sentiment feels true and necessary for today’s sometimes messy, divided America, too. It seems simple, but the bonding and closeness that come with the shared rituals of mealtime can be incredibly healing and uplifting. “The way we cooked for thousands of years was over a fire,” Horne says. “We’ve lost some things in trying to make cooking more efficient. We’ve lost flavor, and we’ve lost the communal property of having a fire and having people come over and congregate and fellowship with friends and family around that fire. One thing that’s funny is when you see people at a party with the KUDU, everybody’s always hanging out all around it. ‘Manning’ the grill is a familiar term because it’s usually one guy all by himself flipping burgers while everybody else is hanging out, but with this grill, everybody wants to be involved. They call it the African TV. It makes the whole process nice and interactive, and slows things down a bit.”

Mercer Innovation Center obviously believes in the potential power of the KUDU Safari Braai as well; Horne was selected as one of the inaugural class of Mercer Innovation Fellows, which means that his company will receive a prize package that includes $20,000 in funds, office space, paid student interns, access to Mercer facilities, and more. “We were so fortunate to win that award,” Horne says. “It’ll be a really neat project for the university because they have so many resources with the School of Business and the School of Engineering; we can do a lot of cool, creative things together to continue to build and expand upon this model. We look forward to working with Mercer students and faculty to create a truly awesome product.”

The grill itself will have a variety of customizable options – it’ll come in two sizes, a home size and one for commercial catering. Rather than make a separate grill for camping and tailgating, Horne opted to retool the full sized grill to make it a little lighter and give it detachable legs so it’s more portable and can be used for both. There will also be multiple attachments available so customers can build the grill that best serves their needs – there’ll be a griddle, a rotisserie, a Dutch oven, a bread maker, even an accessory that’ll turn the grill into a fire pit for post-meal cozy socializing. The company will also sell a unique wood from Africa that’s “extremely dense, with amazing aromas and flavors,” says Horne. “You won’t find that wood anywhere else, and cooking with it is a truly distinctive experience. However, if you’re in a hurry, you can throw on some charcoal and have a steak ready in half an hour. You can cook on this grill with regular or lump charcoal, and we’re going to be selling a propane attachment as well. The options are wide open.”

The KUDU has already been spotted around town here and there; recently, the Moonhanger group hosted a well-received pop-up KUDU event that showcased the catering version of the grill, known as the Kudu Katering Model. “It’s a beast,” said Horne. “There are multiple rotisseries – you could cook for a couple hundred people, you could be doing apps, mains, and desserts all at the same time. Kudu Katering is a cool concept that takes catering to a new level and brings the audience into the process. A lot of times when someone’s cooking at a party, people want to know how stuff is being made, and with the KUDU you can watch all that unfold interactively in front of you on an open fire.”

Top Chef Kevin Gillespie rocking lamb chops and Braai Breads on the Kudu Safari Braai.
Top Chef Kevin Gillespie rocking lamb chops and Braai Breads on the Kudu Safari Braai.

Official launch date for the KUDU is September 1 – which purposefully coincides with the beginning of football season. KUDU will be working with the Moonhanger Group and the Creek to host a tailgate party at every Mercer University home game; they’ll have their grills going outside, and inside the stadium they will be offering a variety of different treats from El Camino, Rookery, and Dovetail that have been cooked on the KUDU. “There’ll be burgers, tacos, a lobster roll,” says Horne. “We want to have some good and different stuff for football fans to enjoy.”

Look for the KUDU Safari Braai Indiegogo campaign to roll out in early September with more details and pricing information. The home version of the KUDU will retail for around $750, but “there will definitely be a discount for early adopters who purchase from the Indiegogo campaign,” says Horne. “Our grill is priced competitively within the realm of higher-end grills. We’re roughly half the price of the Big Green Egg. This grill isn’t for everybody, but it definitely is for men and women who love to cook and who love to do interesting things with their cooking. It’s an open canvas, really, and we don’t want anybody who wants an awesome grill to be prohibited from having one because of the price,” – thus the discounts for those who show their support and purchase their KUDUs early. “We’re really trying to start a company here in Macon that could potentially be a significant job creator,” says Horne. “We’re building a lifestyle brand, in a way – we want people to have products that allow them to enjoy time off work outdoors with family and friends, away from the hectic pace of daily life. We know this is something middle Georgia can appreciate, and we’re hoping to see the community get behind us fully.”

Look for KUDU Safari Braai on Facebook or on the web at www.kudugrills.com

Join the Creek 100.9, the Moonhanger Group and the KUDU catering grill for some Mercer pre-game BBQ. Located between the blue lot and the baseball field. 3-7p.m.
Join the Creek 100.9, the Moonhanger Group and the KUDU catering grill for some Mercer pre-game BBQ Thursday, Sept. 1. Located between the blue lot and the baseball field. 3-7p.m.
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