I was born in Nagoya, Japan, and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. Got a degree in French literature from Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Won a Watson Fellowship and moved to Paris to study medieval cooking in Europe. Moved to Boston to review restaurants for Boston Magazine. Wrote some cookbooks. Vowed to become a novelist.
Moved to Miami, got married, acquired two step-children, got into barbecue, wrote more cookbooks (including Planet Barbecue and How to Grill), and made some TV shows (Barbecue University) for PBS. Appeared on Terry Gross and Morning Edition; did Oprah and Howard Stern; did the Today Show and beat the Iron Chef in Tokyo. Wrote for the New York Times and made some more TV shows for PBS (Primal Grill). Made the New York Times bestseller list and made a French language TV show called Le Maitre du Grill.
I swore I’d write that novel.
Founded Barbecue University, designed a line of grilling accessories, and came to roost on Chappaquiddick Island, where I finally did get to write that novel. I called it The Hermit of Chappaquiddick (after one of the protagonists); the publisher called it Island Apart (which is what “Chappaquiddick” means in the Wampanoag language). Island Apart stuck.
In short, I took the screwiest life path imaginable, and yet somehow it all makes sense.