As far as honey-do-list items go, it was a tall order. Still, Jennifer Schuitemaker, an avid cook who takes great pleasure in the outdoors, did not hold back when she asked her husband Michiel to make a grill that was simple to use, easy to maintain, round with no lid (“to encourage gathering”), and just one more thing … “Can you make it a piece of art?” she said. “Okay, anything else?” he replied.
For most, this anecdote would be filed under wishful thinking, but for Michiel, a Dutch-born naturalized U.S. citizen who had spent his entire career in American steel manufacturing, this was the spark that would become Arteflame.
Arteflame grills offer clean silhouettes, a pleasing weathered finish, and the capacity to double as a fire pit using wood or charcoal, plus all of the culinary functions on Jennifer’s list, such as a circular plancha (or flat) cooktop that accommodates even the most delicate fish.
Like many garden sculptures and buildings, the grills are made with Corten steel, also called weathering steel or architectural steel. When exposed to the elements, “it produces a gorgeous patina that protects the steel from rusting any further,” Michiel says. “So it is ideal to live outside its entire life with zero maintenance. Each time it rains and each time the weather changes, you’ll get different patterns on the side of the grill, and it really makes it look organic and beautiful.”
The streamlined design that is key to the grill’s aesthetic also contributes to its durability and ease of production at the company’s factory in Cincinnati, Ohio. “There are no seams, no fasteners, no screws, no flaps or valves, no moving parts,” Michiel says. “All of those are criteria that were important to me from a manufacturing standpoint, as was making everything here in the U.S.”
To say that Jennifer and Michiel’s entrepreneurial venture has expanded their world would be an understatement. It has led to introductions to elite chefs—Michael Mina, David Burke, Rich Rosendale, and Steven Raichlen, a five-time James Beard Award winner and author of The Barbecue Bible—as well as invitations to cook for the Masters Tournament Final Four, the Superbowl, and the Rose Bowl. The couple even spent a month in Italy learning the craft of pizza-making while working on the launch of their pizza oven accessory.
The company has captured the attention of big names, from the Ritz-Carlton, one of their first customers, to Martha Stewart, who has an Arteflame with her name laser-cut in a custom grate insert. When performing artist Alicia Keys stayed at the famed Invisible House, designed to disappear into the striking desert landscape of the neighboring Joshua Tree National Park in California, her chef requested the grill by name.
However, the buzz is not so much about celebrity trends as it is good design that works, as home cooks who are part of the Arteflame Family—an online group for sharing recipes, tips, and experiences with the grill—can attest. The group is also a source of inspiration and insight for Jennifer and Michiel. “People put pans on the grill to cook curries and all kinds of sauces. It’s fun to see,” says Jennifer, who adds that as the company has expanded to the UK, France, and Canada, so has the breadth of cuisines shared by the group.
In their own backyard, Jennifer and Michiel enjoy finally having a grill that is a worthy centerpiece in their landscape and a hub of mealtime action, as opposed to an eyesore tucked out of view.
When asked what they like to cook most on their Arteflame, Jennifer votes enthusiastically for brunch—the flat grill surface easily accommodates eggs, bacon, and pancakes, as well as sliced fruits, which she caramelizes on the cooktop and adds to brunchtime cocktails.
Michiel goes for burgers—he loves gathering their five children around the grill to tend to their individual patties and toasted buns, followed by s’mores for dessert. Pizza and rotisserie chicken, both made possible by accessories in the Arteflame lineup, are favorites, too. “If everyone is inside and you want to get them out of the house,” he says, “put a rotisserie chicken on the grill and everybody will follow their nose.”
So what’s new and next for Arteflame? In the accessory department, it’s the Wok Holder, inspired by the home cooks of their online community. Jennifer and Michiel are also excited about their next frontier, public parks. They designed the Park Grill to endure the high traffic of public spaces and to complement scenic landscapes better than the usual park offering. A park in Tehaleh, a planned community outside Seattle that encompasses 1800 acres of open forested space, is one of the first to be outfitted with the new model. Maybe one day soon, you will see an Arteflame at a park near you.
Chef Steven Raichlen cooks Bacon-Wrapped Albacore Tuna “Filet Mignons” with Peppercorn Cream Sauce on an Arteflame grill.