Craig Jones Crowned Food Network’s and McCormick’s “Grill Mayor 2012”

Craig Jones Crowned Food Network’s and McCormick’s “Grill Mayor 2012”

Craig Jones, Grill Mayor

Craig Jones, Grill Mayor

Meet the Mayor
Craig Jones of Lee’s Summit, Missouri loves to smoke, no doubt about it. Not cigarettes, mind you. He’s a grill man that loves to smoke just about any food you can imagine. His dedication to grilling and smoking recently earned him notoriety. Jones has been named Grill Mayor of 2012 in a national online contest sponsored by McCormick’s and hosted on the Food Network lifestyle network.

The contest invited grill enthusiasts from around the country to give a key grilling tip accompanied by a photo. Jones’ “Master of the Grill” entry garnered over 7,777 views and more than 4,000 votes of online support during 20 days in August.

“I’m truly humbled by the generous support of friends, and friends of friends,” says Jones. “All of these wonderful people rallied around a cause and just wanted to help. I’m overwhelmed by the responses.”

As the new Grill Mayor of 2012, Jones will be flown to New York City for a private tour of the Food Network studios and have dinner at a Food Network chef’s restaurant, among other prizes.

A Man Who Loves the Grills
Jones has always liked grilling outside. At first, it was just the normal sort of grilling. A change in lifestyle and work schedule enabled Jones to pursue his interest in grilling year-round. He says, “I love using smoke as a spice. Every wood gives a slightly different flavor. For each dish I make, my first thought is, ‘How can or should I incorporate smoke into this dish?'”

Prior to 2005, he worked a very hectic retail lifestyle and traveled up to four days a week and worked 12-16 hours a day. “For a time, this also consisted of moving around the country quite a bit,” says Jones. His wife Gay also hopscotched across the country with him. “From 1993-2000, we lived in Kansas City, MO, Dale City, VA, Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, Albuquerque, NM, and then back to Kansas City in 2000.”

When he left retail and began working in the corporate offices of Sprint in the Kansas City area, Jones had a lot more time on his hands. “I decided that I needed a hobby, so I got it in my head that I was going to cook over live fire,” he says. His ambitions went beyond burgers and brats. “I thought I would try to do gourmet food over live fire, as well as adapt everything that people normally would cook inside to cook outside.”

He began to refine his cooking over live fire as much as possible. Currently, he owns seven grills. He says, “I used to say that I cook over live fire over 340 days a year, but since starting Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts that has backed down to about 300+ days a year.  Earlier on I was truly doing more gourmet-type meals such as rack of lamb.”

As he’s gotten busier, the meals have become less complicated without sacrificing flavor. His favorite dish to prepare on the grill is Chicken Provençal. He says, “It’s a great recipe from Chef Jamie Purviance. of chicken legs marinated in oil, garlic, and herbs de Provence then smoked until golden brown. I serve it with pea risotto and asparagus spears.”

A Savory Story
Jones’ grilling enthusiasm even includes nuts. He created a business based on a signature item that he created on the grill – Savory Addictions® Gourmet Nuts.

“With me, it really is all about flavor,” says Jones. “We season deluxe nuts by hand in small batches, and then smoke them over real wood. What you get is an explosion of sweet, savory and smoky flavor that’s really addicting.”

Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts are available online as well as in several Kansas City specialty retailers. The Kansas City Star Food Issue 2012 listed Savory Addictions #2 on a list of 35 “people, places and things that make us drool” and that make Kansas City a great food town.

Jones’ Super Savory Cheese Ball recipe appears in the cookbook Last Bite:  100 Simple Recipes from Kansas City’s Best Chefs and Cooks, due out in late October from Kansas City Star Books. The book was edited and written by Pete Dulin and features vivid color photographs by Roy Inman.

About Savory Addictions:
Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts (cashews, almonds, pecans, Brazils and macadamias) are small batch artisan nuts, seasoned and smoked over real wood for sophisticated palates. The flavor is an addictive blend of sweet, savory and smoky. Savory Addictions contains no food colorings, MSG, high fructose corn syrup or preservatives. They are proudly hand-crafted in the greater Kansas City area.