Jon Kiluk credits a great deal of what he knows and loves today to his late father. From a young age, he grilled with his dad around camp stoves. He also learned a great deal about food when he went camping in Boy Scouts, a program his dad encouraged him to get involved in.
As Jon grew older, his dad often used cooking as a way to bring the family together. He’d find recipes, invite over aunts, uncles, and cousins, and get the grill fired up.
“My dad would plan a meal, get all the ingredients, then group people and assign them recipes,” the Southern California native says. “He would get everyone working on a meal together in the kitchen and out by the grill.”
When Jon’s dad passed away in 2016, he needed a way to work through his grief and to find something that would take his mind off the loss. He took to BBQing, making tasty creations on charcoal and gas grills, eventually purchasing his first pellet grill in 2018.
“The process of BBQ is soothing, plus it’s fun making it along the way,” he says. “When I’m out there cooking, I feel like I’m having a beer with my dad.”
As Jon got more into pellet grilling, he started the Instagram page and brand Crazy Gringo BBQ in 2019. Quickly, companies like Pit Boss and Neil’s Sarap BBQ started working with him.
Jon loves working with BBQ brands, but he says one of the best parts of being on Instagram is the welcoming, enthusiastic people.
“The BBQ community is really the best part,” he says. Jon really became aware of the strength of this community in the last year during the coronavirus pandemic. “When we were all stuck at home, the whole community came together. We put out content. We found a way to get through the tough times. It just goes to show you what BBQ can do for people.” He felt like many people were inspired by the BBQ community to create BBQ delicious meals for their families, since they were stuck at home. “It was good to see more people get into the BBQ that we love.”
Jon first heard about Bear Mountain via Instagram when he was chatting with influencers who used the pellets.
“When I first got my hands on Bear Mountain pellets, I immediately noticed the difference,” he says. “The amount of smoke and the flavor that comes out is just something you don’t see in all the other brands. It was an easy decision for me to work with the Bear Mountain team and promote a brand I’m confident in.”
So, what’s next for Jon? He plans to start dabbling in catering with some of his BBQ friends and fellow influencers in the Southern California area. He also wants to start participating in state competitions. But he’s adamant that his love for BBQ will always win over potential career opportunities.
“If it ever starts to feel like work, I’ll stop, because, for me, BBQ is therapy,” he says.
As for carrying on his dad’s traditions, Jon loves to use BBQ to bring his wife, kids, mom, and extended family together for holidays or a random weekend. “My wife and the family has been really supportive of my hobby and appreciative of all of the delicious food that comes off the grill.”
“Wherever we’re at, I’m cooking,” he says. “When I’m listening to music, having some beers, watching football, and grilling with the family, it brings back all of these memories with my dad. It’s the place I belong.”
Try out some of Jon’s creations!
Keep up with all of his culinary creations on his Instagram!