THE HOT SEAT: David Carrier

THE HOT SEAT: David Carrier of Certified Burgers & Beverage, St. Simons Island, GA

Based in our hometown - Saint Simons Island, GA - Chef David Carrier is a big guy with an even bigger heart. While continuing to serve up to-go meals from the restaurant, Chef Dave and wife, Ryanne, along with several other local chefs have spearheaded a program called Meals to Heal providing dinners for families struggling during the current crisis.  - Sandy & Steve

By Stephanie Burt, The Southern Fork

There are root beer floats and plenty of burgers on the menu at David Carrier’s Certified Burgers & Beverage in St. Simons Island, GA, but it’s not your typical burger joint. Carrier studied at the French Culinary Institute, worked under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry and Grant Achatz in Chicago, then spent years further refining his skills at luxurious Southern locales, including The Cloister at Sea Island. After years of perfect plating and high stress, he never forgot the roots of his cooking -- great sourcing of ingredients -- and it’s really a focus at the laidback spot on St. Simons. Meat is ground to order, buns are baked in house, and there’s plenty to remind you that butchering is important to your burger experience. Being an island neighbor to SIF also means that he has contributed to the company through collaboration and feedback, and he is always at the ready to build up a fire and get those embers glowing. 

  • Do you have a grilling or campfire memory that started your love of outdoor cooking?
  • Growing up in the northeast, burning fire is a year-round thing, but my real intro to it was the Boy Scouts. Our food didn’t come in direct contact with the flame, but we were all smoky. You develop that love of fire, and there is something about watching a flame dance off a piece of wood that is “babbling brook” calming. 

  • What’s one meal that really shines on your SIF?
  • [SIF developed a custom shawarma for Carrier. See image below] For me, it all stems off a standing kabob. It wasn’t so much experiencing that on a chef level, but on a diner level. I’ve always admired that and enjoy eating that, and introducing flame to that. It is so cool and out of the ordinary, bringing in smoke and extreme heat into that prep.

  • What is something that you’ve cooked on the SIF Kettle that surprised you?
  • The versatility of it is amazing. There is no surprise to what it heats, and the heat dome helps it to heat faster. Slow roast to sear, making bread and biscuits? There’s nothing that surprises me. 

  • How would you describe your style of cooking?
  • One that allows the ingredient to do the talking. In my opinion, it’s a little like cheating. I focus on sourcing beautiful product and then guiding that to shine with a beautiful, sharp knife, a hot pan. 

  • What type of wood do you like for your SIF Kettle and why?
  • I like a good, dried hardwood like oak. Depending on what I’m cooking, I might introduce fruitwood to it, or pecan to sweeten the smoke. 

  • What’s one trick about open fire that the average cook needs to know?
  • You can get flambe when you’re not careful. That flame puts carbon onto what you’re cooking, and that’s bitter, doesn’t taste good. You have to be patient and let that burn off, even when you’re smoking something. Beyond that, I would say the delicate flavors of wood and smoke. 

  • What is your favorite element of the SIF Kettle?
  • It’s just the versatility. Before guests arrive, get the fire started. Then you’re ready for shrimp and oysters. Then you pop some more wood around it, and you have a fire to gather. You don’t have to move: the appetizer, entree, to roasting marshmallows and sipping bourbon. 

    Chef David Carrier Sea Island Forge

    Al Pastor Marinade 

    from David Carrier of Certified Burgers & Beverage, St. Simons Island, GA

    Chef’s Note: This marinade works with poultry and seafood. For seafood, marinate shrimp or any flaky fish for about 30 minutes, or an hour for firm fish such as tuna. Chicken should be marinated 1-3 hours before placing on a fire-ready SIF Kettle. You can use the protein in a variety of ways, but I like to finish the the meat into a taco prep, and I add red onions, roasted, chopped pineapple, and cilantro.

    1 bag Guajillo Peppers, seeded and toasted

    3  Ancho Chilis, seeded and toasted

    10 cloves Garlic, peeled and toasted

    1 white onion, quartered and toasted

    3 whole cloves

    3 bay leaves

    1 Tbsp. dried oregano

    salt to taste


    1 whole piece piloncillo

    ½ c. cider vinegar

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. On a rimmed baking sheet, place chilis, garlic, and onion, and toast in oven for 5 minutes, then remove and set aside.
    3. In a sauce pot, toast cloves, bay leaves, and oregano over medium heat. 
    4. Add toasted chilis, garlic and onion and cover with water.  Bring to a simmer and add piloncillo and cider vinegar. 
    5. When chilis are soft remove from heat and blend until smooth.  Season with salt to taste.
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