Word of mouth: Caroline Stacey meets a couple of chefs playing the flame game

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Inside almost every party animal is a Neanderthal in leisure wear - be it jeans, a toga or black tie - who can't resist cooking meat over a naked flame. Tim Reeves, 33, and Nigel Tunnicliff, 36, are the first to admit they're as guilty of pyromania as the next man; the difference is they've made flame-cooked food their business. Their company, Blistering Barbecues, was such a success last summer that they've expanded into wood- fired ovens, woks, baltis and huge paella pans, so they can keep the fires burning even at winter parties.

The duo cater for events as diverse as cocktail bashes, an ostrich-meat party for 300 clay-pigeon shooters, black-tie dinners, or a buffet for 2,000. Often larger caterers subcontract the barbecuing to them, but as well as cooking everything on the spot, Blistering Barbecues can handle the whole show themselves, supplying all the decorations, music and staff, whether the guests are gathered indoors or out. Just don't expect them to simply slap sausages or burgers on the barbie. They aim to bring flair to cooking over an open fire, and are just as willing to grill vegetables, make salads or lay on a giant pavlova as they are to barbecue an entire lamb Moroccan-style, or a side of salmon with teriyaki flavours. "If people want us to rock up and just do food, great, but we're more than that," says Tim.

After working for Virgin Records and running his own dance label, Tim decided on a change of career. He found a kindred spirit when he joined a company where Nigel worked as head chef. Blistering Barbecues began when they realised that no one was specialising in outdoor cooking. "People would just get in a knackered old gas barbecue." says Tim, "I thought, oi oi, here's some potential."

As well as their dozen charcoal barbecues, each of which can cook enough food for 100 people, this summer sees the debut of their two mobile wood- fired ovens imported from Portugal. "We're the only people mad enough to have them," Tim believes, and, being made of terracotta encased in metal, they're so heavy they had to invest in a forklift truck to transport them. But the ovens earn their keep by baking loaves of bread, pizzas in three minutes, roasting shoulders of pork or Cuban-marinated suckling pigs, and vegetables - all of which emerge with a delicious, faintly smoky flavour. "It's a great bit of kit," enthuses Tim. "But you have to hang on to your eyebrows," adds Nigel, recalling the first time he opened the oven door.

But from relatively unrefined cooking methods, they can conjure up anything from dainty canapes - their "Blistering Bites" include slices of seared tuna on wasabi mayonnaise and prawn crackers, and charred asparagus spears with smoked butter hollandaise - to a three-course dinner for a large party, consisting of skewers of tiger prawns, followed by duck on roast sweet potatoes and bak choi, and finally sweet sticky rice and bananas in banana leaves all cooked on the barbecue. "It's not too bitty, and it's creative without being overly complicated" says Nigel. "It's not faceless food either - we're on display," he explains. Which makes them prey to every passing barbecue bore. "You'd be amazed how many guests ask us whether they can have a go," laughs Tim

Blistering Barbecues (0171-720 7678) Email: info@blisteringbarbecues.co.uk