I have followed Todd Toven’s YouTube videos featuring the Blackstone griddle for a few years now. I always appreciated the zest in his personality in the videos, from his veritable catch phrases, “Take a look at that!” and, “Let’s give it a try!” to his enthusiasm in operating those awesome griddles. He stated in one video that he bought a 36″ Blackstone griddle about six and a half years ago, started making YouTube videos featuring the grub he was throwing down on it, was ensuingly sponsored by Blackstone Products and recently in the last year or two he was hired by the company, and nowadays that excellent hiring has Todd going around the country and working hard as he showcases what these spectacular outdoor flat top griddlin’ cooking stations can do.
I purchased my first Blackstone griddle, the 36″ with the front grease management system, in August 2017. This was before Walmart was an official licensed carrier of Blackstone Products, and being that time of the year where grill-related items are often marked down, I saw it begging me to take it home at a price of $199. I immediately sent Kurt Halls from Caribeque a message on Instagram, basically asking him to enable me, because yeah, I wanted the validation to get it, he confirmed that it is an awesome cooker to add to the outdoor cookin’ family, and boom, I bought it, and it is one of the very best investments I have ever made.
I continued following Todd’s videos and noticed he was going to be in Christiansburg, VA back in October, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend that one due to a scheduling conflict. A few weeks ago, I watched a video of his on YouTube where he posted about cooking hot dogs on the Blackstone, recommending a way to add a kick to them by throwing some black pepper and granulated garlic on them. I actually watched the video up until right after he ‘gave ’em a try’ and shut it off. A couple of days later, I showed the video to a man I consider to be like a second dad to me — Sonny — and he watched the video all the way through, and I heard Todd talk about the Blackstone Griddle More tour dates and I heard the words, “Bristol, Virginia Walmart.” As soon as I heard those words, I knew I had to go! And so I did.
You cannot meet America’s Griddler, Todd Toven, without wearing one of his “Make America Griddle Again” t-shirts.
With my pal Kevin Ball, the man who will not eat corn for very specific reasons.
I arrived at the Wal-Mart off of exit 7 in Bristol and finally met Todd as he was coming out of the Wal-Mart. It was a comical moment, because as we shook hands in our greeting, I told him I was Troy AKA ‘Grizzly Troy’ and he had a good laugh, saying that he expected someone with the name ‘Grizzly’ Troy to be wearing buckskins and overalls. I always get a kick out of the reactions to the Grizzly name, but really it simply has to do with being a hairy dude with gray hair, and I lazily came up with it as the name for this site and my Instagram page.
Todd cooked up some breakfast quesadillas, griddle pizzas, chicken tacos and bacon-fried corn! I loved it all, but the bacon-fried corn was my favorite of the four offerings, and you know I will soon have to ‘give it a try’ at home on my Blackstone griddle.
It was a dreary lookin’ day, but the rain didn’t set in until nearly the tail end of the demo. I expected a bigger crowd, because the exit 7 Wally World is usually one that stays packed, generally, but it wasn’t too wild. Perhaps it was because of the weather or due to the fact that it was on a Thursday. Regardless, I had a great time. The most comical part was, asides from this guy who was doing a demo of his own on some little ol’ janky motrbike thingymajig, a lady who asked Todd what all could be cooked on the griddle; he comically told her, “everything short of a candy bar” to which she reciprocated an angry look towards him over that response. Unfortunately I missed watching this happen as I had stepped inside of the Wal-Mart to grab a bottle of water to drink.
Todd mentioned his upcoming tour dates in the following days, from Roanoke to Christiansburg to Dublin. He emphatically stated that the Christiansburg demo would be his fifth one at that particular Wal-Mart, stating that the manager of the store, Brick Tickle, was the best around, because Brian goes all out whenever Todd comes around with Blackstone by helping advertise for it and being a part of the demo. When Todd mentioned this, I thought, “What the heck?” and considered making the trip out to Christiansburg on that Saturday to see what the fuss was about.
Hanging out with Todd and the Christiansburg, VA Wal-Mart crew.
Ribeyes, New York strips featuring Juan’s ‘secret’ garlic’n’butter and onions & mushrooms on the Blackstone griddle.
I made the 113 mile trek to Christiansburg, VA on that Saturday and, despite the rain and surprising myself by sporting a jacket in the month of June, had a great time. I actually met a gentleman there who was from a town about 15 minutes down the road from my hometown, Sherman, who went all out and purchased the new Blackstone pro series 36″ griddle!
In the process, I made an offer to Todd that he couldn’t refuse; I wanted some chicken wings cooked up on the griddle and asked him if he would cook ’em up if I went inside of Wal-Mart and bought ’em. His eyes lit up as he emphatically stated, “We can do Redneck Chicken Wings 2.0!” So I did just that, along with procuring a bottle of Country Bob’s All Purpose sauce.
Redneck Chicken Wings 2.0
Despite the rain and ensuingly high winds, it was another great demo and I was glad to attend and be a part of two of them in just a few days. At the Christiansburg demo, Todd threw down some more breakfast quesadillas, griddle pizzas, stir fry and steaks!
Todd is just as cool of a dude in person as he is in his YouTube videos. I’m a big time advocate for Blackstone Products because I love the griddles! From my 36″ to the 17″ tabletop I picked up months ago. I will only ever rep and support products I truly believe in.
I have to say, I appreciate the work he puts in. I would absolutely love to be a part of a company like Blackstone, doing demos like these around the country, but I can imagine the hecticness of doing them, from the long traveling, being away from home for an extended period of time, shopping for groceries in the wee hours of the mornings as well as other preparations for the demos, setting up, answering the same repetitive questions ad nauseum (hey, it’s part of the job, but still!), dealing with the occasional less than personable individuals who roam the world as well as everything else it invariably entails. He worked hard in some nasty weather and did it like a professional. Thanks, Todd!
(Oh, and Todd being from Pennsylvania, I reckon he’s a Pirates fan and he had to put up with a couple of guys wearing St. Louis Cardinals baseball caps.)
If you are on the fence about whether or not a Blackstone griddle is right for you in your outdoor cooking repertoire, I’ll tell you straight up, “Yes!” However, check and see if the Blackstone Griddle More tour is coming to a Wal-Mart near you, because I guarantee you that if you were to attend one and subsequently taste the food that America’s Griddler is serving up, y’know, by ‘giving it a try!’, you’ll be putting one of those griddles in the back of your car in no time.
One last thing: for goodness sake, check out Todd’s site Make America Griddle Again and give some serious consideration to buying one of his Make America Griddle Again t-shirts, because let’s be honest — that is the best MAGA acronym that exists.