Interview With Aquaforno Creator Tim Rhodes

We get to talk to the man behind the `BBQ In A Backpack`

By William Coleman

The BBQ is something that we all love for so many different reasons. It brings people together, it’s one of the best ways to enjoy the nice weather and its the ultimate excuse to grill food and eat too many burgers and sausages. When touring you need something easy and convenient which sometimes can jeopardize variety and quality. With the Aquaforno II you no limits on what you can cook and make life easier.

Aquaforno was established in 2011 and has since delivered its award-winning range of patented outdoor cooking companions to a diverse worldwide customer base; from scout groups, campers and glampers, to adventurers, BBQ fans and gadget lovers, who all share a passion for good food and the outdoors. Today, Aquaforno provides its users with an all-in-one BBQ grill, rotisserie, smoker, pizza oven, water boiler, along with a way to keep warm, and a place to dry their wet socks. No other portable cooking system on the market offers as much functionality and versatility as Aquaforno.

The Aquaforna II is really innovative piece of kit, where did the idea come from for the original Aquaforno BBQ/outdoor stove?

Back in 2011 my Daughter, who is now 20, was planning her 13th Birthday party. She wanted to camp in her grandads field but as many teenage girls do, she wanted to eat Pizza with her friends.

Faced with a trip at night from the field to Reading to spend a fortune at a well Known Pizza outlet and knowing Karen wouldn’t be happy about the quality of ingredients, I got an old metal drum, a hacksaw, grinder and a hand riveter and put some brackets in to hold a pizza stone. By the time it was dark the kids had all eaten pizza and Karen and I were sat next to it keeping warm on a particularly windy night. As the night wore on we were pretty pleased with ourselves, but when we ran out of wine Karen insisted we needed to put a boiler inside it as we needed tea.

Within 6 weeks I had tracked down a guy in Somerset who made boilers for model steam trains and with friends had designed and made our first telescopic prototype. By 2017 we had not only honed the design but also won two awards including “Camping Product of the year”.

Can you give me some background on the crowd funding?

There are two Product Crowd Funding sites, Kickstarter based in New York and Indiegogo based in San Francisco. Most British companies and start ups tend to use Indiegogo. They are both very similar in that they help publish your product on a trusted platform that holds any funds you receive until you reach your target. If you don’t reach it they simply refund all the money back to the customers. When you do, they release the funds to the vendor. Customers get large discounts as an incentive for pre ordering. From the point at which the funds are released to the seller the relationship is the same as any other retail experience. We have had one recurring point of confusion and it has only been with British customers.

Americans do not pay any sales tax or VAT on crowd funded goods. The IRS looks at the system as pledges and rewards. HMRC look at it as any other type of purchase along with tax authorities in the EU, Canada and Australia, so VAT has to be added. The only place to add this is to the shipping charges and so British customers think they are being charged $90 for shipping. Only £15 of which is carriage. We have written this in the FAQs and referred people to this on every product option but people have been confused. We have ensured we are actually tax compliant in both the USA and UK. We have given this feedback to Indiegogo as it seems like it could be simply rectified with a slight tweak.

There seems to be so many different ways to cook food with the new Aquaforna II, how many different attachments/cooking methods does it provide?

As a small portable fire pit or BBQ (with or without its boiler) convenient and lightweight.

As a Brazier- (2nd level up). There are brackets that allow you to place a pan or wok, great to fry or saute. This also a great place to leave the pizza stone. It is ideal for use as a dry hot plate for keeping food warm. The stone can be swapped over for the grill if you want to BBQ up here. There is a much more even heat at this height than most BBQ’s and less worrying about flare ups or hot spots (or cooking rather than burning in British BBQ language)

With the top on, this then becomes the oven with the stone in place or as a hot smoker using the gill or the hangers (which normally dry your clothes or keep utensils at hand) Charcoal is best for smoking fish or meat with the addition of soaked wood chips.

As an oven it can hold a steady temperature on Gas or with a good charcoal and can be used like an oven at home but with a little more attention. Everything from a Lasagne to s crumble. However wood is best for pizzas due to the ferocious heat and the great flavour. An Aquaforno II fired on dry wood can cook pizzas quicker than you can make them – up to 20 per hour.

Whenever the Aquaforno II is hot, whether just being used as a fire pit or in any other operation it can provide boiling water on tap from its boiler. When filming during The Beast from The East we used it for mulled wine to keep warm.

The pizza oven is an amazing addition. What inspired you to add the pizza oven and what is your favourite topping?

The pizza oven is the seed that started the whole Aquaforno journey off. Coincidentally there seems to have been a huge surge in the popularity of pizza ovens since then so our timing was perfect.

Favourite topping is tricky as the whole family is completely different. My pizza of choice has to have mozzarella, gorgonzola, pepperoni, red jalapeno and rocket – drizzled with chilli oil.
My top meal, all of which can be cooked with the Aquaforno has to be slow Roast leg of lamb (Kleftiko style in stock, wine and herbs) with potato gratin, peas and beans.

Our most frequently cooked food is pesto & mozzarella pizza, we have served thousands of them to people at shows and always get complimented- the base recipe is pretty much the Jamie Oliver quick recipe. We make most of our dough at the shows as we have heat and hot water whenever we want it.

This is the ideal portable BBQ for anything get away. How many types of fuel can be used to power it?

We can fire an Aquaforno with Gas, wood, charcoal / briquettes (use good quality without dodgy additives) or even peat.

Does it come in multiple variations or just the one?

In 2018 there will just be the Aquaforno II but we have numerous plans for the future including accessories that compliment the Aquaforno II but also outdoor living. Watch this space!

here can we find them to buy?

At the moment they are on the Indiegogo link which takes you straight there. If the campaign goes extremely well we may be able to order excess stock but It is currently the only sure fire way of getting one this year.