Pit master Sam Jones at Grand Wailea

Third generation North Carolina pitmaster Sam Jones at the Grand Wailea's Fire It Up! BBQ.

Preview: Celeb chefs head to Maui to Fire It Up!

The annual Grand Wailea celebrity BBQ takes summer eats to a new level
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Summer is all about enjoying outdoor grilling and barbecuing, so the Grand Wailea created an event that would completely elevate that family picnic. Imagine sipping Buffalo Trace while talking story with celebrity chefs Sam Jones and Justin Brunson as they hand you their freshly pulled pork sandwich. Or swirling a glass of Kosta Browne with Hubert Keller himself flipping burgers and topping them with foie gras. 

Kind of surreal, right? I got to experience the first oeanfront, down-home, celebrity cookout last July at the Grand Wailea and have been waiting all year for the chance to go back. I'm not a celebrity chef chaser, so I don't know the intimate details of most of these chefs' accolades or contributions to the culinary scene, but I do know they're each masters of their craft. And the food they create smokes any other barbecue you'll get in Hawaii, that's for sure.

One of the most notable is third-generation North Carolina pitmaster Sam Jones, who specializes in smoking whole hogs. Last year, when he set up his pit and started his fire, several cell phones shot up to capture video of his expertise — and all of those fanboys were the other chefs. Despite his notoriety, Jones remains completely humble, happy to crack self-depracating jokes or share quirky family stories.

Hubert Keller foie gras truffle burger
Hubert Keller's miniature foie gras truffle burger at Fire It Up!

Another chef that is at the top of the must-meet list is Hubert Keller. I don't know if he'll be serving minature versions of his famous Rossini burger, featuring Kobe-style Australian wagyu, sauteed foie gras and shaved black truffles, but that was a hit last year. He also caps off the evening by pumping up the crowd with his DJ skills.

Top Chef star Sheldon Simeon is a veteran at the event, most likely showing off the bounty of Maui ingredients, which is always a hit with the guests. Justin Brunson of Old Major in Denver also returns, and is a perfect fit for this event as he has had countless appearances on television talking about meat. New to the chef lineup are some celebrity pit masters from the deep south: chef and TV personality Aaron SanchezChef/Owner of Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans, LA; Wayne Mueller, Pit Master/Owner of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, TX; and Barbecue Hall of Famer Chris Lilly, Pit Master of Bob Gibson Barbecue in Decatur, AL.

Fresh oysters with shave ice mignonette.

The team from the Grand Wailea —Ryan Urig, Jorge González, Mike Lofaro, and Adam Rzeczkowski — will also present their talents, Hawaiian style, at the event. One of the featured items last year was Lofaro's raw oysters with shave ice mignonette, which is not just unique, it's amazing. Hopefully he serves that again; after having his mignonette, it's hard for me to eat oysters anywhere else.

Fire It Up! is this Saturday, July 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Grand Wailea on Maui. VIP ticketholders can get in at 5 p.m. and mingle with the chefs. Makana will provide live entertainment, but from 8 to 9 p.m. chef Keller will turn the lawn into a niightclub with his DJ skills. Tickets are available on Eventbrite and are $150 for general admission, $250 for VIPs and $75 for children from 5 to 12 years of age.

The Grand Wailea is flying me to the event, so if you can't make it, follow me on social media at @melissa808 and @frolichawaii, with live updates via videos and photos.

Fire It Up! at the Grand Wailea
July 7, 5 p.m.