When Bob Shingler designed his Evo circular flattop grill, he wanted to create an outdoor appliance that promoted social interaction.
"I was looking for a better way (of grilling) that would allow people to share in the experience of cooking," Shingler, a former telecommunications software executive, said.
And share they do in really big groups.
The sleek-looking grill has become a favorite of hotels and resorts for presentation-style or "live action" cooking, said Shingler. In this type of cooking, chefs prepare food before an audience or before restaurant diners in an open kitchen.
Sales of the grills have grown by about 40 percent each year since they were launched nearly six and a half years ago, Shingler said.
The Evo's design was influenced by a French flattop stove, a wood cook stove and a cast-iron skillet, Shingler said.
Shingler's Beaverton, Ore., company makes 11 commercial and residential stainless-steel models ranging from a tabletop model at $1,700 to this year's built-in electric unit at $4,600.
Some grill experts say the Evo is not really a grill because flames never touch the food. But Shingler said Evos bring out the natural flavors of food without charring it and are popular with vegetarians.
"You could put a pot or pan on this grill and use it just like you would a stove top," he said. All the cook tops are gas-powered, except for the new electric model this year.
As for the name, Shingler explained, "The meaning behind Evo is that we're 'evolving the way people cook,' that we are creating 'social' cooking appliances that allow people to share in the creation of a meal."